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Bible verses about Repentance
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Before there can be at-one-ment, or unity, there must first be reconciliation. Before reconciliation, there must be repentance. And before repentance, there must be something else—belief! Our belief must be strong enough and with sufficient understanding that it does not just drive us to our knees to save our skin, but also compels us to make the sacrifices necessary to change our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

What we must truly know now, in our time of salvation (I Peter 4:17), is that no cause apart from God's will moved Him to make us the special object of His love. We must be careful to believe this fully because human nature always looks for some trait within us that motivated God to call us. Human nature always seeks to make itself look good. It will move us to think, even to say, "I have always loved God." Yet how can human nature honestly say this when we must repent before a relationship with Him can even begin? We repent of sin, the breaking of God's law, and love is the keeping of God's law. If we were really keeping God's law—that is, loving Him—then we would have no need to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Genesis 3:7-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here we have the Bible's first sermon. This is what Abel heard, believed, and submitted to. The same instruction merely informed Cain.

Adam and Eve were the first sinners to stand before God and be called into account. In this passage are four elements that apply to what Abel believed. The first element is that, in order for a sinner to stand before God, nakedness must be covered. Nakedness, both spiritual and physical, has wide usage as a symbol. At its best, it indicates innocence, child-like simplicity, and vulnerability. At its worst, it indicates humiliation, guilt, shame, and punishment. Adam and Eve were attempting to hide their humiliation, guilt, and shame when they grabbed a few fig leaves to provide covering.

An interesting spiritual lesson comes in understanding an application of the symbolism here. Adam and Eve threw together as a covering whatever was handy at the moment. What they chose to cover themselves with physically was totally inadequate as a spiritual covering. God immediately rejected their effort, which is the main instruction of this vignette.

A secondary teaching is that many carnal people today think it does not matter what they physically wear when they come before God at church services. Oh, yes, it does! These days, people arrive at church to worship wearing all kinds of casual clothing. In fact, many churches invite them to do so, advertising themselves as "casual"! Sometimes this reflects a matter of ignorance; they just do not know any better. At other times, it reveals a serious matter of disrespect for the primary covering—Christ's sacrifice, as we shall see shortly.

It is good to remember the overall principle to appear before God covered with acceptable covering. The symbolic instruction carries through to both physical and spiritual applications, and the person who cares what God thinks will do his best to conform to Him. God covered Adam and Eve with truly fine clothing. That is our example.

The second element Genesis 3 reveals takes us a step further spiritually in regard to the covering: What humans devise in terms of covering spiritual nakedness is, in reality, worthless. The third element clarifies this further: God Himself must supply the only covering that is spiritually adequate.

The fourth element is that the only adequate spiritual covering is by means of death. As in the first element, there are two lines of instruction. The first leads to the necessity of the second, if life is to continue. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The underlying principle is that we are always to give of our best to the Master. When we fail, the death penalty is imposed. This, then, brings forth a second teaching: In a spiritual sense, the entire human race sinned in Adam and Eve, who represented all mankind at the time. Since the wages of sin is death, and all have subsequently sinned, all of us must receive that wage—or another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must substitute for us.

However, we find it clearly spelled out in Romans that there must be a link between us and the Substitute (Romans 4:1-4, 11-12, 16, 19-20, 23-25; 5:1-2).

Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the link between us and God's forgiveness, which provides the acceptable spiritual covering necessary to be received into God's presence and receive the gift of life.

The second aspect of the fourth element also involves another death—ours. In this case, it is not a literal death but a spiritual one:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? . . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. (Romans 6:1-2, 6-8)

This death is achieved through repentance because one believes he is a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, having broken His law and earned death.

What we have just reviewed must have been taught to Cain and Abel, probably by Adam. How do we know this? Because Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel offered by faith, and faith comes by hearing. He heard the divine words given by God to Adam and Eve, which were passed to him, and Abel believed. Cain heard the same words, but did not believe as Abel did.

More proof is recorded following Cain's rejection. God says to him in Genesis 4:7, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." God clearly indicates a choice between right and wrong. Good and evil faced Cain and Abel. The one brother by faith chose what was right in God's eyes, while the other chose what was right in his own eyes. In essence, he chose death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Exile is a form of punishment that God has used from the very beginning. Here in Genesis 3, in the book of beginnings, we have the first instance of exile imposed by God Himself. It was exile from the Garden of Eden, from all that was wonderful and good that God had created, the perfect environment in which He had placed Adam and Eve. They could never go back. God placed an angel with a flaming sword that would turn whichever way any man juked to get back. If it were still there, it would deny us "paradise" even now.

This context shows three reasons we can glean to determine why God uses exile. The first one is evident—it was punishment for their sins. Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when God said they should not take of it. That is sin, breaking a direct command of God. Exile was the punishment.

What else can we glean? What did their exile do? It separated them from access to Him. So, secondly, exile separates man from God. He does not want to be separated from us, but because of sin, it happens. It must happen because He does not like sin in the least. So this is a kind of corollary to the first point. Sin brings exile, and sin causes separation from God.

The third point must be read into it, but it is obvious from God's intent and the way God is. God imposes exile to spur repentance because it should be the natural inclination of men who have known God and all the glorious things that we can have in His presence to return to His good graces.

In summary, the first point is exile occurs because of sin. The second point is exile happens because sinners must be separated from God. And the third point is God uses exile as a goad to motivate sinners to repent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Genesis 4:6-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because God had not accepted his offering or because He had accepted Abel's, Cain was angry and depressed. God tells him that if he changes his ways, he will indeed be accepted. But if he does not change, sin—pictured as a slave crouched just outside the door of his heart, awaiting the bidding of its master—would spring to action. God is describing sin's persistent nearness; it is always ready to extend its dominance by increasing iniquity. Sin strives to pile iniquity upon iniquity, even as one lie usually produces another to keep a facade of deception from crumbling.

God's warning is clear. Repent of sin at once, or it has a powerful tendency to grow and thoroughly dominate one who does nothing to stop it. This thought is reinforced in the final sentence of verse 7, "And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

In paraphrasing God's words, James G. Murphy in Barnes' Notes, gives an insightful comment:

Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do [sic] not instantly retreat. ("Genesis," p. 151)

In modern terms, God is saying, "Practice makes perfect." Sin's desire is so persistent and its appeal so subtle that, if it is not consciously stopped, one will become a master, a "pro," as we would say today, at sinning. It becomes a way of life. Jeremiah 4:22 makes this principle even clearer. "For My people are foolish; they have not known Me. They are silly children and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."

Did not God's warning prove true in Cain's life? We cannot afford to ignore sin's pervasive influence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Leviticus 13:47-59   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The clear implication of Leviticus 13:47-59 is that some, though not all, leprous garments became clean. Peter's vision of "all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air" (Acts 10:12) speaks to this point. God made it clear that He was capable of cleansing the Gentiles, but never said He had cleansed all of them at this time. Notice His admonition to Peter: "What God has cleansed you must not call common" (verse 15). Peter got the picture when he met Cornelius shortly after, telling the Roman centurion: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (verses 34, 35). While God calls from "every nation," only some, those who fear and obey, are acceptable to Him.

In verse 36, Peter interjects a vital idea: Christ "is Lord of all." Verse 45 records that the "Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." The "apostles and brethren who were in Judea" (Acts 11:1) came to understand that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (verse 18).

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

Deuteronomy 5:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A changed heart comes only from the presence of God's Spirit, and there was no provision in the Old Covenant for receiving God's Spirit. Because it is a process, there is a sequence to salvation. God calls and leads to repentance. The person begins to have faith in God and to become aware of sin, so he repents of sin. Now he is in a position to receive the Holy Spirit. He becomes baptized and has hands laid on him to receive the Holy Spirit. He has begun the process that will lead to salvation. None of these provisions were part of the Old Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Deuteronomy 7:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God shows His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with those who submit to His will and in forgiving the sins of those who genuinely repent. In addition, His Word is eternally reliable and true.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Deuteronomy 7:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We may deduce from God's instruction to the Israelites that they "should have no pity on" the wicked nations around them and that we should not pity ourselves for incurring the penalties of sins we chose to commit. Everyone is personally responsible for his own actions. In pitying ourselves, we say, "Poor thing, suffering for your own sins! It's all right if you sinned. You shouldn't have to suffer for it." Self-pity actually involves lying to oneself. It is a result of sin, and it is incurable without repentance (Jeremiah 30:15). Repentance from sin is the difference between self-pity and sorrow. Self-pity involves no repentance, while godly sorrow produces repentance (II Corinthians 7:9-10).

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 10): Self-Pity


 

Deuteronomy 28:48   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God warns the Israelites that, if they failed to serve Him properly, He would allow their enemies to fit them with a "yoke of iron." Clearly, the yoke of iron—a heavy, uncomfortable, unyielding, confining restraint—is an implement of destruction used by God to punish His people for their sins.

As this passage indicates, people bring this yoke upon themselves through disobedience to God's law. If we are feeling that our yoke is too heavy, maybe we are wearing the wrong yoke. If so, we need to examine ourselves (II Corinthians 13:5). Have we brought the yoke of iron upon ourselves? If we do not repent, a heavy yoke of sin will destroy us!

How many times do we blame God for our trials, when in fact, by our ingratitude and worldliness, we have fitted ourselves with an iron yoke! When we refuse to recognize our sins or to evaluate our spiritual condition soberly, we are returning to the bondage from which we have been so graciously freed. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 1:14: "The yoke of my transgressions was bound . . ., and thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; the Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand."

l Corinthians 10:13 is a familiar scripture where God tells us that He will never give us a trial that is more than we can handle. He will never allow us to be tempted without providing a way out. In other words, we do not have to sin! We do not have to bring the curse of the iron yoke upon our necks! The apostle John tells us that keeping God's commandments is not burdensome (I John 5:3). Our "burden" is not as burdensome as we may think; we can always lighten it by doing what God says is right.

Even so, it is not easy. The discipline required to be a disciple of Christ is hard work. Anyone who thinks that the Christian life does not involve work is wrong. Contrary to popular belief, God never said that we would not have to work. He never said we would not have to endure. He never said that the Christian life would be without pain or weariness—but He did say that He would supply our needs and that He would finish what He started in us.

Ronny H. Graham
Take My Yoke Upon You


 

2 Samuel 12:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed adultery? It could have started even earlier, when David looked at her while she was naked in the rooftop bathtub. Or was it after he planned with Joab to kill Uriah on the frontline? Or was it after the dirty deed was done, when Uriah was actually dead? God did not step in at any of those times. Do we realize how long He waited?

II Samuel 12:15 says that Nathan departed to his house, and the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore. The whole period of gestation went by before Nathan came and said to David, "You've sinned." How far had David fallen from grace during this nine-month period since he had committed adultery? He had conspired to kill. He had actually not done the dirty deed himself, but it was attributed to him. Then he had taken Bathsheba as his wife.

Notice in II Samuel 11:27 that God had already imputed the evil to him; He had judged the matter. "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." This is a terrible translation. The margin has it more correctly: "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." God calls a spade a spade, but He forbore to inflict the penalty for an important reason, which is found in Psalm 51. What did God's forebearance produce in David?

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)

What did this episode produce in David? Repentance for sure, and tremendous growth in character. It produced Psalm 51 itself, which is a major piece of writing in all the history of the world. How many countless people has it taught repentance and the building of character? God had greater purposes here than merely punishing transgression. Remember, David did not get away with this, because when Nathan came to him, he said, "From this time on your house is going to have problems, buddy. You're not getting away with this sin. It's going to follow you for the rest of your days, and your childrens' and your grandchildrens'." If the throne of England is any witness to this, the punishment is still falling on David's house. There are problems in the family of David that frequently show up in sexual problems and war. They have terrible dynastic squabbles.

If God blasted everyone at the first sign of sin, we would never have the chance to build character. No one would ever make it into God's Kingdom. We would all be just oil spots on the road. We would never have the chance to repent and say, "God, I was wrong. Lead me in the right way. Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me. If you allow me to live, I'll teach sinners not to do as I have done."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

1 Kings 19:4-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

While pitying himself, Elijah asks for death, saying, "It is enough! Now LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" His situation reveals several problems that can fatigue and erode our attitudes: He presumes the outcome, focuses on the problem and himself, and becomes physically exhausted. God provides the solutions to alleviate self-pity: Pray for God's help, rest, find a new focus and new expectations, repent of sins, and take obedient action. When Elijah crawls into his shell, God commands him to get up and get moving. He wants Elijah to choose godly action based on obedience rather than inaction based on his emotions. Genuine repentance and a clear view of our true condition, not a distorted one, fights self-pity.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 10): Self-Pity


 

2 Kings 4:35   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Elisha again stretches himself out on the child, and this time something happens: The child sneezes seven times and opens his eyes! What a strange way to resurrect the dead! Its very peculiarity demands a spiritual parallel, and indeed it has one.

No medical rationale sufficiently explains the boy's sneezing. One commentator writes that, because the child's illness centered in his head, the seven sneezes relieved the pressure that had caused his death. Wanting a rational explanation, other commentators insist the Septuagint, which lacks this clause about the child sneezing, is correct. Yet others declare that the word should be "breathed" and Elisha is the subject (for example, the Revised English Bible reads, ". . . he [Elisha] breathed into him seven times")! The last two "solutions" have very little textual support.

These rationalists fail to recognize that miracles are by nature irrational! The child's sneezes, therefore, are not as medically important as they are spiritually significant. God is more interested in our grasping the lesson in this "parable" than He is in explaining how He worked the boy's resurrection. The seven sneezes are the key to the entire story! They are spiritual therapy!

What is a sneeze? Webster's Dictionary defines it as "a sudden violent spasmodic audible expiration of breath through the nose and mouth especially as a reflex act." This last phrase shows that most sneezes occur as a reaction to an irritant of some sort: dust, dander, allergen, etc. The respiratory system convulses, and a 240-mph blast of air attempts to dislodge and expel the offending particle.

Does sneezing have a spiritual counterpart? Yes! The act of repentance is the part we play in clearing ourselves of irritants—sins—that enter our lives. Through repentance, we expel everything that is foreign to God's way of life. Notice Paul's description of repentance in II Corinthians 7:10-11:

For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted. . . . For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

In the analogy of reviving a body to life, sneezing is a perfect picture of the individual Christian's repentance!

One other detail remains: The child sneezed seven times. The number seven—used multiple times in the Bible—is notable for signifying completion, totality, perfection. The book of Revelation contains numerous groups of sevens: lampstands, stars, angels, churches, spirits, eyes, seals, trumpets, plagues, bowls, thunders, heads, crowns, mountains and kings. Solomon uses the number seven to show a complete list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Sacrifices are often in groups of seven (Leviticus 23:18; I Chronicles 15:26). Scripture includes numerous other references to seven.

That the child sneezed seven times is an illustration of complete repentance. Just as Elisha's part takes his complete exertion, so must the child put his all into the cure. One or two sneezes are not enough to rid him completely of his illness; he must sneeze until it is completely gone. Then, completely restored to his former health, he can live a new life without fear of relapse. Back in the embrace of his mother, he can go out and be a witness of God's mercy and power (II Kings 4:36-37; 8:5).

The spiritual parallels are obvious. David cries out to God in his prayer of repentance:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. . . . Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 13, 17-18)

This is the kind of repentance God seeks from us now. The church has not been scattered because of righteousness! God's displeasure with our deplorable spiritual condition has resulted in His violent expulsion of us (Revelation 3:16; see Leviticus 26:33; Daniel 12:7; Amos 9:9-10). To return to His good graces—to revive God's church—we have to expel the sin from ourselves completely, totally, permanently, so we can be suitable representatives of Him before the world. Only then will we be fit to preach the gospel with any power to the world.

When that time will come, only God knows, and He will open the door to get it done. In the meantime, our job is to become clean by the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and the scouring effect of sincere and deep repentance. Revelation, an end-time book, contains one-third of the Bible's occurrences of "repent" (New King James version), and this should convince us how important repentance is at this time. Christ tells the Laodiceans, "Therefore be zealous [earnest, eager] and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

This is the lesson of Elisha's resurrection of the Shunammite woman's son: God's true ministers and the members must work together to produce repentance, putting God's church back on the road to His Kingdom and eternal life!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

2 Kings 22:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At this point, six years into Josiah's reformation, God informs the young king that the people were only giving lip-service to his efforts. Their hearts had not changed; they had not truly repented and turned to God. He is, however, a merciful God, slow to anger, quick to forgive; the terrible price will not be paid just yet.

Mike Ford
Josiah


 

Nehemiah 9:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The twenty-fourth day of the seventh month is two days after the Last Great Day! They are still there en masse!

What are they doing immediately after the Feast? They are fasting and repenting as a group, together! What an impressive example for us end-time believers! What might God do for us, for the church, for the world even, if His called people would humble themselves and fast and pray and seek Him after hearing His words at His Feast?

Notice what God tells Solomon in II Chronicles 7:14: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." This is exactly what the Jews under Nehemiah were doing.

But it does not end there. These children of Israel now do something about what they have heard all feast long. And what they do is in many respects far harder than overcoming some of the problems that face us!

Staff
The Feast Is Over . . . Now What?


 

Job 38:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" are biblical names for angels, who express joy when events in God's plan unfold. Not only God but also angels are thrilled when a sinner repents of his worldly ways. Prayer for forgiveness brings about joyous repentance and restoration of righteousness in a person's life.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Job 42:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though among the most upright of men, all his life Job had held a wrong evaluation of himself in relation to God and other men. But when God allowed him to "see" himself, he was devastated, his vanity was crushed, and he repented. Only then could he really begin to love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Job 42:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Job finally recognizes that he had met the enemy - himself! He does not say, "I abhor my sins" but "I abhor myself," recognizing that the problem was not just specific sins - what he was caused him to fall short of God's righteousness. As explained in Romans 7, we repent not only of what we have done but what we are that caused us to do what we did!

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Psalm 51:1-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When David saw the enormity of his sin, he realized he had hurt God and His purpose. His sorrow, chagrin, and remorse reached deeply into his heart, mind, and entire being. Our opposition to God should create a similar deep emotional response in us, for we have all played major roles in our Savior's death. He died for our sins. Emotional sorrow alone is not the answer, however. Paul says godly sorrow produces repentance (change) toward salvation, while worldly sorrow is like saying, "I'm sorry I got caught. I'll be more careful next time I sin."

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Psalm 51:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the depths of his godly sorrow over his sins, David understood that it was the washing of His Creator that was needed for him to be cleansed of his transgressions of God's way of life.

In the book of Psalms, David expresses profound details of his relationship with his Creator. He looked forward to his Savior coming to fulfill the purposes of cleansing and restoration. David understood that His God was working to open the gates to everlasting life for human beings who would be cleansed and made whole, perfected as children of the great God.

Recall in Psalm 23 that David concludes his description of his relationship with his Shepherd, his Creator, by declaring that he would "dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6). David looked forward to eternal life, understanding that it would take God washing him and cleansing him of his sins to allow him to come into this inheritance.

Staff
Purge Me With Hyssop


 

Psalm 51:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

David was brought face to face with truth, with reality, with light. The Holy Spirit actually confuted him and convicted him with an overwhelming argument, revealing where wrong and right were, and he could not escape. He dodged the issue for nine months at least, making all kinds of rationalizations, even to the point of bringing about the death of Uriah.

Maybe we would not have done something as criminal as that, but every one of us is guilty of the same thing in principle. We dodge the issue of our sinfulness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 

Psalm 51:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As a converted man, David understood that animal sacrifices were really not doing anything except setting a pattern. Certainly, they were tutors to those who understood. The Israelites could sacrifice thousands of animals and not get a thing out of it, but David understood. He writes, "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart."

That costs a man something! A person sacrifices of himself when wild human nature is being cut away, when he, by the exercise of his will due to his faith in God, determines to do or not to do something, even as Jesus later did. By the force of His will, buttressed by His faith, He would make himself do something, or keep Himself from doing something, that every fiber of His passionate being yearned to do the opposite. "These, O God, You will not despise."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest


 

Psalm 51:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Broken spirit means "to be overwhelmed with sorrow." Contrite heart means "to be completely penitent, feeling remorse and affected by guilt, deeply regretful and wishing to atone for sin." "Broken spirit" and "contrite heart" are virtually the same thing. This is further confirmation that spirit is used as an aspect of mind that generates a wide diversity of activity, including, but not restricted to, conduct. It must be clean and right if the conduct that is produced is going to be beneficial. This alludes, then, to our motivations. What is in our heart? What is in our spirit? If our heart and spirit are not right, our motivations will not be right, and our conduct will have the aim of taking advantage, of controlling, of manipulating to one's own ends, self-centeredly rather than selflessly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 4)


 

Psalm 51:18-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Essentially, David is saying that the offering of an animal does not meet the price of forgiveness, but an acceptable sacrifice before God is a broken and contrite heart. An acceptable sacrifice is repentance, as it is giving up human nature, its own will, and obstinacy and pride. They have been suppressed and then replaced by humility. This is personally costly because it motivates one to submit his life to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest


 

Proverbs 16:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can justify ourselves to the point we really think we are clean in spite of our sins. We will use "all humanity" as our excuse, admitting we are sinners "just like everyone else," but not wanting to admit specific sins or faults lest we have to overcome them. God knows all men have sinned and fall short of His glory, but He is only interested in our repentance (change), overcoming, and growth, not our excuses. "Everyone is doing it" does not justify our personal sin. God will forgive only as we repent.

Staff
Overcoming (Part 2): Self-Justification


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Clearly, God's patience is exercised so He can work on the situation and produce repentance. All too frequently, though, His goodness and patience are abused through stubbornness or neglect. Be assured, God is aware, and there comes a time when His patience is exhausted and His judgment falls if the change God expected does not occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Human nature is so tricky that it can deceive even one who is converted into taking the grace of God for granted. Human nature has the tendency to pull a person further and further into sin. If God does not execute His wrath and justice immediately against such a person, and instead gives him grace, He allows that person an opportunity to continue to live longer so that grace can work in his life and lead him to repentance. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Solomon had enough wisdom to understand that, in the end, such evildoers would be punished. The wheels of God's justice may work slowly, but they work and never stop working. Perhaps the supreme folly of all is that man deceives himself—that because it is customary for God to be patient, longsuffering, slow to anger, and forbearing, we forget that His tolerance is designed to lead us to repentance. Instead of taking advantage of His patience and coming to Him in humility for forgiveness, we tend to continue to revolt through sin. The supreme folly of a converted person is to delude himself that somehow he can get away with sin.

The Old Testament, far from being a record of a belligerent and wrathful God, is actually a revelation of extreme patience, mercy, and grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Isaiah 1:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse says the same thing in more detail as what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonement is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free-moral agency.

The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that their lives were full of hypocrisy.

In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attend Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.

As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you have something against your brother, leave your gift at the altar and then first go to your brother and be reconciled, and then come back because the gift will not be accepted." That is quite plain.

Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.

It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.

We play a major part in this because God has given us free-moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His Word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.

It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is a Person who was really at one with God.

What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 6:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In simple terms, convert also means "to change," as in ice to water or dollars to pesos. Theologically, it means changing from sinner to saint, filthy to holy, worldly to godly. In Acts 3:19, Peter uses "repent" and "convert" together. Both entail a recognition of self and sin and beating a hasty path to righteousness. Paul explains the repentance, conversion, and salvation process by contrasting two terms. We must not be conformed to the world ("similar to, identical to, in agreement with, or compliant"), but transformed ("changed in composition or structure, character, or condition, converted"). Repentance means changing one's whole life!

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Isaiah 58:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Trumpets symbolize a loud, warning cry of impending danger. These verses from the prophets impart a dire warning to those living in the end time: The day of the Lord is at hand, a day of darkness, gloominess, and clouds over man's society! The prophets strongly admonish the ministry to raise their voices as trumpets to warn of sudden, terrifying destruction!

Though originally intended for Israel, these warnings apply specifically to the called-out children of God since we are the ones living in the end time with the understanding of God's plan! In fact, we have the most to lose by ignoring these stern prophecies of death and destruction. They are admonishments to prepare ourselves spiritually for the tumult ahead. Notice that these verses stress repentance, fasting, and prayer, and who but God's elect truly understand them?

Staff
Holy Days: Trumpets


 

Isaiah 66:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If you want to impress God, it is humility that impresses Him. Pride gets between us and God, and without realizing it, we actually shut Him out of our lives.

The Bible clearly shows that our spiritual well-being is dependent upon acknowledging, with our lives, our reliance upon the revealed will of God—His Word. Pride results from arrogating to oneself something for which one is indebted and would not even have except for God's benevolence. Who gave Lucifer his beauty? his intelligence? his position of power from which he operated? Pride perverted Lucifer's thinking into rejecting his dependence, and he elevated himself above God.

Now what do we have that we did not receive? Did we create ourselves? Did we create the great goal in life to be in the Kingdom of God and to be born into His Family? Did we reveal God to ourselves? Did we die on the stake for the forgiveness of our sins? Did the gift of the Holy Spirit come to us through our own agency? Did we lead ourselves to repentance? Who gave us the power to believe in the true God and in His Son Jesus Christ?

It is interesting to reflect on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Lucifer comes along and says to them, "You will be as God." What entered into Adam and Eve at that moment? The pride of life. The result? They rejected the revelation of God. They rejected His Word and sinned. Pride subtly elevates a man to the same level as God, which results in him rejecting the very gifts God would give him for his salvation.

So, consciously or subconsciously, the proud man—us (hopefully not as much as it used to be)—is saying that he already knows better, or has the power and ability within himself by nature, thereby subtly turning salvation into something God owes him. It becomes earned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Jeremiah 3:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeremiah, pleading for Israel to repent, to "acknowledge your iniquity" (verse 13), asks that his words be proclaimed "toward the north." Jeremiah, remember, lived at the time of Judah's fall to the Babylonians, some 130 years after the Kingdom of Israel had been forcibly moved out of its homeland. So, he was not writing to Israelites domiciled within a hundred miles north of Jerusalem—residing in and around Samaria. No, he is addressing a people living somewhere else further north.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Eight): The Scattering of Ten-Tribed Israel


 

Jeremiah 3:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here, God appeals to His people, promising to supply leaders who will provide them with good things to feed the mind, if they will turn to Him in repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Jeremiah 25:3-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeremiah was God's prophet at this time, when Judah was just about to suffer captivity. He was God's last major prophet—the last one He sent to appeal to the Judeans before their society, their civilization, came to an end. What was Jeremiah's complaint? "For twenty-three years I've been speaking to you, and you're not listening." And because they did not listen, by the time of Jeremiah 25, the nation had already been defeated, and a small group of refugees was on the run trying to save their lives. So Jeremiah made it very plain: "You didn't listen."

This is typical of why Jesus admonishes us to listen. They heard, but they did not listen. The direct result was ultimately the pain of warfare, but also all of the disruptions in society before the war actually broke out—the kind of things that our culture is struggling with now—things similar to the drug scene, rampant murder, all kinds of disease, and so forth. God said if they would only repent, He would heal them.

They did not listen. They did not repent. They did not get healed. Instead, they went through war and into captivity, and these few had to flee for their lives. God is saying what almost any parent would say to a child in a similar situation: "I told you not to do that, but you wouldn't listen." How many times have we said that to our children?

Why did Judah not listen? The answer is not difficult. They did not listen because, to them, the word spoken by God's prophets carried no authority. They dismissed it as a little thing, of having no consequence. It carried no authority with them because the people had no faith in God's sovereignty.

Because these people had made the covenant with God and had been taught by one of God's prophets, if asked if they believed in God, these Judeans would have replied, "Yes, I believe in God." But the practical reality is that they had no faith in God; they lived as if He were nowhere around. They did not have faith that He had the power to do what He said or that He cared enough about them to do it. In a word, they did not have living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because it is to those who listen and believe the message that God's summons comes and through whom God's work is done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part 1)


 

Jeremiah 30:23-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses actually repeat Jeremiah 23:19-20 almost word for word. This repetition is significant because Jeremiah 23 is a warning against false prophets. In particular, it is about men, claiming to speak for God, who tell the people—whose lives deny God—that, "The LORD has said, 'You shall have peace.'" These prophets say to the people, who were walking according to the dictates of their own hearts, "No evil will come upon you." In essence, they deny God's justice, and the fact that sin has consequences. They are telling the people not to worry about God's judgment upon them—everything would be fine; no change of course would be necessary.

However, the people, in reality, have declared war on God and His way of life through the conduct of their own lives. Whether or not they realize it, their carnal minds hold great enmity for God's way of doing things. They can never have peace with God until they repent and change.

God always desires peace, but if the sinning party is unwilling to face reality and repent, then His response will be a painful one. There will be peace with God only when the sinner is broken and submits to God. Yet, the false prophets insinuate that God does not care and that it does not matter how one lives. Nevertheless, these verses show that God destroys those who promote the idea that sin does not have consequences, who say God's justice is of little concern. These ideas keep getting Israel—indeed, all of mankind—into trouble.

The symbol of the whirlwind, then, represents God's fury and anger. Just as no man can control or divert a tornado or hurricane, so God's anger at the sin of the wicked cannot be resisted. It will continue until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days, which we are in, God says we will consider it, meaning that Israel and Judah have not yet learned this lesson. However, when that chastening is over, Israel and Judah will be restored to the land, and, more importantly, they will be reconciled to God and able to live in peace.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 32:35   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The same thought is expressed in Genesis 6:5-7, when the Lord repented that He had made man to live on the earth. It never occurred to God that humans could become so wretched that every imagination, every thought that came to mind was only evil continually. The only thing He could think to do to preserve these people for their time of visitation (salvation) would be to wipe them out before their minds became so abominably corrupted, their conscience so defiled, their character so set, their heart, mind, and spirit so evil, that repentance would be impossible. The only thing to do would be to put them to death, to set them apart for a time when they would have an opportunity for salvation, when the kinds of temptations that were in the world at that time would not be present.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 5)


 

Ezekiel 18:24-28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is an individual responsibility. God never condones sin nor grants license for anyone to disobey His commands. This is not speaking about our transgressions done out of weakness or ignorance. These are transgressions that are done as a way of life with knowledge that one is doing wrong. However, God always allows the sinner to repent. He will always chase after the sinner with His Word, giving him the opportunity to turn around. We see that in the lives of the kings Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah. God always leaves the door open for a sinner who desires to repent. If he does not repent, his mind eventually becomes set, seared, and over time, repentance becomes impossible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1


 

Ezekiel 33:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In His explanation of Ezekiel's role as a prophet, God informs the man that he was to be a watchman for the people. Of what use is a watchman if the enemy's advance and all the pertinent details of his attack are already known? Anciently, a watchman would stand in a high place, upon a wall or a tower, and scan the horizon for enemies. When he saw them approaching, he was responsible for shouting a warning to the unsuspecting citizens that danger was near and that they needed to prepare for the onslaught. However, he did not know exact details—only what he could discern from his vantage point.

Once war begins, the most precious commodity is precise and timely information, and it is almost never transmitted in time to those who need it most. The best scenario a leader can ask for is to know as far in advance as possible that his enemy is on the march against him, for this gives him time to make the preparations necessary to secure his people and possessions, assemble his forces, and meet the enemy on the battlefield of his choosing. An excellent watchman just might give him the advance warning he needs.

However, this presupposes a physical attack. A continued reading of Ezekiel 33 clarifies that the prophet was not warning about a physical enemy but a spiritual one. Ezekiel's job was to warn the wicked in Israel to turn "from his way" (Ezekiel 33:8-11). His job as watchman was spiritual in nature! He was to warn against sinful lifestyles, against iniquity and wickedness, and to implore them to repent and live righteously. A companion passage in Ezekiel 3:16-21 makes this plain.

In other words, his role as prophet/watchman—just as a Christian minister's job is today—was heavily weighted toward preaching and teaching God's way of righteousness. It was essentially, like the gospel of the Kingdom of God, a warning message of repentance and an exhortation to growth in faith and obedience to holiness. In this regard, the prophetic hints about future events were, as they are to us, prods to motivate change before the coming, dreadful Day of the Lord.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy's Place


 

Ezekiel 44:6-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ezekiel 44 takes place either during the Millennium or the Great White Throne Judgment. However, from certain details, it seems that God is referring to the actual ancient Israelites who failed Him under the Old Covenant.

It appears that, when the Israelites rise in the second resurrection, God will make them perform what they failed to do originally! He will give them a chance to repent of their unfaithfulness, to make up, as it were, for the sins of the past. They will know every time they lift a bullock onto the altar, every time they keep the gate, every time they make the showbread, every time they fulfill any of their responsibilities to God, that they failed in their first attempt to keep the terms of their covenant with God.

That is bearing iniquity! They will be reminded in every action that they have sinned and are a sinful people. It will be a hard lesson for Israel, but they will learn it well.

God says in Isaiah 43:21, "This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise." Finally! In the end, when God gives them the complete package of spiritual blessings, the Israelites will glorify God as He intended from the beginning, fulfilling their ultimate purpose.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

Daniel 9:1-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Daniel prayed this, Judah had been scattered for about 70 years, and they were just about ready to go back to the Promised Land. God was just about ready to release them. Daniel was concerned due to what he saw in Babylon; it discomforted him. He likely saw some of the same conditions existing in Babylon that had caused the Jews to go into captivity in the first place almost 70 years before. His fears were justified because, when Ezra and Nehemiah went back to rebuild the Temple and then the wall around Jerusalem, very few Jews went back. In fact, it was such a small number by Ezra's count that he called a fast about it. He wanted to make sure that the people would be hidden on the way so that nobody would see them making the trip back to Judea and consider them "easy pickings."

When the church was finally begun in AD 31, Peter went to preach in Babylon because there was still such a large colony of Jews there. Indeed, they stayed in the world—in Babylon—and continued to multiply.

We can read between the lines of Daniel's prayer and understand that he was anxious over their return. Quite a number of commentaries say that they feel that this cannot be all that Daniel prayed. Really, all that we have here is an outline of what he said, the high points. After praying it, Daniel went back to his office or to his home and jotted these things down so that they would be remembered. God undoubtedly inspired that. So we are actually seeing only the essence of what he said. He certainly went into a great deal more detail with God.

When we pray for repentance, we go into detail about things that we personally know about—especially those things that happen in our lives and perhaps those things that happen within God's work, of which we were aware. We do nothing about them then, but we certainly can ask God to forgive them.

Daniel begins by establishing between him and God that he, Daniel, understood that God is faithful. He keeps His covenant. He stands by Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. When something goes out of God's mouth, it does not come back to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). There are no "hollow threats" with God! Do we understand that? His faithfulness is one of the things that makes Him God. He can always be depended upon. He is Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). "For I am the Lord, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Daniel 9:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Daniel begins to lay the groundwork of an appeal to God. "God, you are merciful." God desires to forgive. Even though we have rebelled, God's ear is still open to our cry of repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Daniel 9:15-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the end, Daniel asks God for compassion on them (and on the city and the Temple), that God would forgive and rescue them for His own name's sake. He asks for forgiveness so God Himself could be glorified by His people—because, as we are, we are not in a state to glorify Him. We need to be "turned around," personally and individually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Hosea 3:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hosea means "help" or "salvation," and despite the recurring theme of Israel's unfaithfulness to God, the eventual salvation of Israel is the main subject of the prophecy. God uses the prophet's marriage to Gomer, "a wife of harlotry," to illustrate the relationship between God and His people. Gomer is not faithful to Hosea, yet God commands the prophet to take her back, just as He would restore Israel to Himself.

The remainder of the book expounds and expands on this pronouncement, making intermittent calls for repentance. Several sections include Judah within the prophecy (see Hosea 5:5, 10-15; 6:4, 11; 8:14, etc.), showing that Hosea's prophecy, though preached primarily to the northern ten tribes, is in reality aimed at all twelve tribes of Israel. God accuses both Ephraim (Israel, also called Samaria) and Judah of running to other nations, particularly Egypt and Assyria (Hosea 5:13; 7:11), when threatened rather than to God. In the same way, all Israel loves to pursue idols—Baal seems to have been a favorite—rather than their Maker (see Hosea 4:12-14; 8:14; 12:11; etc.).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Meet the Minor Prophets (Part One)


 

Hosea 7:1-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We cannot fail to see the same conditions prevailing in our nation. For God to bring about repentance and healing, He must first restore a knowledge of His standards. But when He does, the faithlessness becomes very apparent. It sounds much like Paul saying, "When the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9).

Unfortunately, when God exposed the Israelites' sins, they did not repent as Paul did. Genuine repentance is impossible without a consciousness of sin. Hosea's indictment is that Israel was not conscious of their faithlessness to God: "They [did] not consider in their hearts." This shows how "far gone" they were under sin's addiction. They had become almost completely numb to their spiritual state. Spiritually speaking, they were sleepwalking through life, unaware of the social disaster they had created and in which they were wallowing. Faithlessness was the "norm" and generally accepted.

When this faithlessness combines with marriage and promiscuous sex, very few people will change, despite all the evidence of how destructive this sin is! Syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, AIDS, broken homes, increased illegitimacy, rebellious children, teens bearing children, and latch-key kids—who see their parents only at bedtime because both parents work to provide them "with the better things in life"—are just some of the effects.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Amos 1:3-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In one way or another, these Gentile nations took vengeance in retaliation for injustices that they believed other nations committed against them. God promises to judge their barbarity, but He does not say when. Many years may pass before He takes action because His overriding goal is repentance and a change in character.

He will execute proper judgment—true justice, and it is our responsibility to have faith in that. Fifty years passed before God avenged the depredating acts of Hazael, king of Syria, against Gilead (Amos 1:3; II Kings 10:32-33). God waited for the right time and place to act. But He did act with a punishment from which He will not turn back (II Kings 13:22-25). When He decides to act, He acts!

When He says that He knows our sitting down and rising up (Psalm 139:2), He is not speaking metaphorically. He is involved with His people. We must learn that sometimes God may not take action within our lifetime, but when He says, "I will repay" (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35), He means it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 2:13-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The wording of verse 13 provides two possibilities. The first is that God, in exasperation, refuses to carry His people any longer, as one might put down a burden that is too heavy. The second possibility pictures a heavily loaded cart with a broken wheel that carves deep ruts in the road and throws its occupants into ditches. The context implies that the heavy load is the crushing burden of sins that impede Israel from staying on "the straight and narrow" (Matthew 7:14).

This second meaning seems to fit the best, as He proceeds to foretell Israel's destruction. Israel had reached the end of her greatest period of prosperity since the time of Solomon. The nation was rich, powerful, and well-armed, proud in her might, abilities, wisdom, wealth, strategic advantages, and courage. Who could stand against Israel? But God thunders the warning that all the nation's natural abilities (Amos 2:14), acquired skills (verse 15), and outstanding qualities (verse 16) would not help her.

Men see the strength of a nation in its wealth, population, armaments, technology, and knowledge. But where does God look? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible reveals that the cause of the rise and fall of nations is moral and spiritual. As Amos shows, no nation can rely on its strength, power, and wealth to save it from the devastating effects of moral decay. Moral, ethical, and spiritual problems cannot be resolved by money, strength of arms, "Star Wars" projects, social programs, intelligence, or humanitarian goodwill.

Since Israel had forfeited her privileged status, God promised to destroy her as He destroyed the Amorites and the Egyptians (Amos 2:9-10; 4:10, 12). The people of Israel had gone so far that God expected no repentance from them. Like Ecclesiastes 3, Amos shows there is a time of opportunity and a time when opportunity is gone. Evidently, Israel's opportunity to repent had faded away. It was too late!

As He had fought their battles for them in the past, now God would fight against them. Whatever their courage or expertise, nothing would go in their favor. The things that had formerly given Israel strength in war would be turned against them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:3-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A lion has roared" (Amos 3:8) concludes the section that began with "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). The Lord, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), has roared against Israel to take heed. When a lion roars, anyone within hearing distance should change the direction of his path, especially if the lion is very close!

Amos 3:3-6 contains seven consecutive questions. After the first one (verse 3), the remaining three pairs of questions consist of a sequence of "before" and "after" illustrations:

  • When a lion roars (verse 4), he is warning others of his presence—there is still time to escape. When a young lion cries out of his den, however, he is content because he has killed and eaten. It is too late to escape.
  • Birds cannot fall into a snare when there is no trap (verse 5), but the trap always springs when one walks into it.
  • The trumpet warns of danger coming (verse 6), but it cannot sound if the watchman is already dead and the city has been taken.

The Lord has done what He warned He would do. While the threat is being made, one can still escape, but once judgment begins, it is too late.

When a lion sees his prey, he will try to kill it. When the divine Lion roars, the people need to shake off their complacency because His roar means He is about to spring into action! He means what He says about living His way of life, and He follows through when we depart from it.

Some people, like birds, unwittingly stumble into trouble. Oblivious to everything around them, they fall into traps, like being swindled by con men or crafty deceivers. God's people are often just like birds, unsuspectingly going to their destruction, unmindful of the dangers around them. In other words, God is warning: "Don't be a birdbrain!" We must think about the direction that we are heading. In His mercy, God always warns His people of coming calamity, either through His prophets (Amos 3:7) or through escalating disasters that lead to His ultimate judgment.

Unlike the other six questions, Amos 3:3 stands alone without a second question following it: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" It pictures a couple who have arranged to meet and do something together; they have a date. In the language of the Bible, this agreement is a covenant. God considered His covenant with Israel to be a marriage (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:8, 14). Could the silent second question be: "Can a marriage be restored if the bill of divorce has already been issued?"

God chose to withdraw Himself from Israel because He realized He had nothing in common with her. They could not walk together any longer. But in Amos' day, the divorce was not yet final; reconciliation between God and His people was still possible.

But there came a point in Israel's history that it was too late. The die had been cast. Repentance was no longer possible. The trumpet blew, the trap sprang, the lion pounced.

Through Amos, God is warning our nations today that similar, devastating calamities lie just ahead, and escape from them is still possible. As yet, the lion has not pounced—it is not too late.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Amos 3:9-10, the prophet is told to proclaim the tumults, oppression, violence, and robbery in the nation. The man on the street was not too disturbed at the lack of law and order. He did not seem to realize that this cancerous immorality plaguing the country from within would result in her being crushed and destroyed from without.

However, when the time came to defend Israel from foreign invasion, Israel would have no strength (verse 11). God says, "They have blown the trumpet and made everyone ready, but no one goes to battle" (Ezekiel 7:14). Because the people were so preoccupied with their own self-interests, they did not respond to the external threat of invasion. As a result, the nation fell easily.

In our own generation, we have seen that our adversaries could not conquer us on the battlefield when our general level of morality was high. But as our moral fiber weakened between 1950 and today, they began to destroy us in the business world. Our foes in World War II, in becoming our allies during the Cold War, learned our ways and now rival or outpace us in most economic categories—not only in the area of heavy industry, but in highly technological matters as well.

As our economic power is being sapped by moral cancer, our fighting spirit is being drained too. We are no longer able to present a united front on any matter. In addition, as the United States takes on the role of sole superpower, as our troops are used to enforce United Nations policies, our military strength is exploited and thinned. In our moral and social malaise, we find rousing ourselves to action as a nation gets harder and harder to do. Our allies know we are a weak branch to lean on.

And behind all this is God, who sees our corruption and warns us that the time is near.

"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'An adversary shall be all around the land; he shall sap your strength from you, and your palaces shall be plundered'" (Amos 3:11). "Therefore" connects the preceding verses with a conclusion or result. Tumult, oppression, violence, and robbery beget weakness and destruction. Sin is inherently self-destructive. It holds out such promise of pleasure and fulfillment, but contains within it the seeds of destruction. Whatever is sown is reaped.

Why does Amos depict Israel as a powerless nation while she was at the height of her economic, political, and military power? The nation's religion was a sham! Morality and righteousness make a nation strong, but immorality and unrighteousness will always bring it to ruin (Proverbs 14:34). Where religion is powerless, government, business, and community become ineffective because their moral undergirding is gone.

"'For they do not know to do right,' says the Lord" (Amos 3:10). Unable to tell the difference between good and evil, Israelites finally reached the point where they called evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Not only is this in regard to spiritual truths but also to the marketplace. While they no doubt complained about the violence, they could not see that their own selfish ambitions actually produced the violence on the streets.

Evidently, even the religious people never made the connection between the moral and social breakdown in the nation and their own selfish ambitions. They may have been embezzling from their company or overcharging their customers, but they went to church every week! That is why God says He will destroy the religious system too (Amos 3:14).

Cold, calloused, indifferent, the common Israelite just did not care about the other guy. "So what if he suffers while I enrich myself—that's life in the big city, baby!" Whether politician or businessman or religious person, all Israelites, it seems, looked at life this way. It was a view of life almost totally devoid of a social conscience. Their lifestyle glorified amorality. But, most condemning of all, it was a lifestyle diametrically opposite to that revealed by God through Moses.

We, too, need to be careful of this attitude in our own self-absorbed culture. The media even calls the "baby boom" generation the "Me Generation," and a popular magazine found in supermarket checkout lines is boldly titled Self.

Notice the repetition of "palaces" and "houses" in verses 9-11 and 15. God instructs Amos to tell the kings of foreign nations (verse 9) about the Israelites' stockpiling "violence and robbery in their palaces" against themselves (verse 10). To paraphrase, He says, "Look, My people have weakened themselves through sin! They are ripe for destruction!" God empowers the heathen, so they, as His battle-ax, will punish His people. His ultimate aim, of course, is to bring them to repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 4:6-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's people were very busy making money, accumulating things, and practicing their religion. But God was also very busy—sending famines, droughts, blights, locusts, epidemics, warfare, and possibly earthquakes in judgment for their unrighteousness (Amos 4:6-11). He hoped that they would heed these "minor" warnings before He sent the rod of His anger against them (Isaiah 10:5).

Rain fell on one part of the country and not on another. When it rained, it rained too much, causing floods. In other places just enough rain fell to deceive the people into feeling a sense of hope—that it was not so bad after all.

We see this in the United States. Natural disasters—insurance companies call them "acts of God"—are growing more frequent and more intense, killing many and causing billions of dollars in damage. Floods ravaged the Midwest in 1993, while drought killed crops in other areas. After a year or so of good rainfall, California fell back into drought conditions—only to suffer from floods a year later! Fires rage over thousands of acres after periods of drought, destroying forests and homes. Sudden earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and extreme temperatures destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

It never seems to get quite bad enough to send the nation into a real tailspin, but it is just enough that, like the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Exodus 7:13-14), we continue to harden our hearts. We fail to repent. If the unrepentant attitude continues, the "natural" disasters will intensify, bankrupting the nation economically. Since money seems to be the nation's foremost god, the true God will hit where it hurts most.

The vast majority of Americans have become so far removed from God that they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear the warnings He sends. Educated in a system that fundamentally denies God, they lack understanding. They interpret God's warnings as natural events—just nature running her course. An earthquake or flood or drought is viewed as "nature doing her thing."

Rather than heed the warning and repent, Americans turn to their other false gods—science and technology—to bail them out. "Design better levies to protect us from floods," they cry. "Seed the clouds to produce more rain." "Engineer stronger buildings to withstand more powerful earthquakes." "Science will someday give us the ability to predict—even stop—earthquakes." Americans have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

In these disasters, God is saying something quite different—something vitally important. He is warning the people that they have a responsibility, and if they fail to live under their covenant with Him, He has the power to correct them so that they will repent. So, in fairness and mercy, God lays a simple choice before them: "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Their choice is either to face their sins and repent, or face the wrath of a just God.

To bring about His purpose, God is active in His creation, especially among His people, whether physical or spiritual Israel. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6). Is God involved in our lives? Do things happen by chance to the people of God? This world would have you believe that God really is not aware, that He does not care or even exist! But He says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

Is God involved? "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). Do we see God working in our lives? Events do not happen accidentally to God's people, of whom God is very aware. He is very concerned and thus very involved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 5:14-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How can this calamity be averted? The solution is so simple and obvious that God seems to spend very little time on it within the book of Amos. In reality, every word of the book screams what Israel needed to do then - and needs to do today.

"Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate." A person does not need to seek God if He has already revealed Himself to him. Thus, seek means "to turn" to Him in repentance, not necessarily "to look for." This is a way of saying, "Set aside your time and life for God."

Seek in the Hebrew is imperative and has the force of a command. Seeking good, or seeking God (verse 4), is an act that we have to set ourselves to do; it is not a natural inclination (Romans 8:7). But it is worth the effort, for its product is life - not just physical existence, but life as God lives it (John 17:3). If we determine to seek good, and continue in it, the result - truly living! - will follow. Seeking the Lord produces godly life.

In living by every word of God, we should notice the order in which He lists these commands: "Seek good and not evil. . . . Hate evil, love good." The action of turning to good precedes the emotions of hating evil and loving good. Holiness involves action and emotion: seeking and shunning, loving good and hating evil. He wants us to turn to the good and make it a target in our daily life. If we wait for God to infuse us with the right kind of feeling before we try to do good, then we will wait a long time because it will never come. We have to take action first by faith and the corresponding right feeling will follow.

If holiness does not involve both action and emotion, it becomes something that we can put on and take off. We could hypocritically live one kind of life during the week, and on the Sabbath put on our holy look and go to services. Action and emotion combine to make a whole way of life.

Holiness is not just a way of life or a rule to live by. It also produces the very best quality of life - the way God lives eternally. God's people have to think constantly of holiness, appreciating that He has chosen us out of this world and given us grace to be holy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 7:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A major proof of false religion is that it cannot validate its effectiveness before the witness of man, but God can and does validate the true religion. He produces evidence of His righteousness, power, purpose, and way in many forms. God has performed miracles, signs, and wonders in the sight of thousands of witnesses.

Without objective assurance from time to time, we would be living in a world of religious make-believe. God sometimes validates Himself before man by advertising His power through an undeniable occurrence like Jesus' resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Men have verified the truths of God through observation and experimentation (I Kings 18:30-39). Man is thus without excuse (Romans 1:18-25).

On occasion, God also verifies our personal relationship with Him by immediately answering a prayer or miraculously saving us from harm. On the other hand, if He needs to get our attention, He will shake us awake by allowing a test or trial to warn us that the relationship is degenerating. Because we are assured that God is with us, the testing is good. It keeps us from sinking into complacency and pride, both of which will separate us from Him.

This is what God is addressing in the principle of the plumb line. Amos understood that God was using it to test the spirituality, morality, and genuineness of the people against the standard. The test answers the question, "Are they really God's people?" God wants to know if they are exhibiting His characteristics.

This idea of a spiritual standard of measure transferred directly into the New Testament church. God uses similar imagery, a measuring rod, in Revelation 11:1. To the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22), God uses fire to refer to a test instead of a plumb line.

As we can see from these examples, the end-time church will be tested. How are we going to build? What will the test reveal about our Christian growth (I Corinthians 3:9-16)? We are commanded to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From this we see that the plumb line is God's revelation of Himself as the standard.

At first, God's revelation of Himself was direct, visible, and personal, but later, as Israel grew, He revealed Himself more verbally through the prophets. They recorded His revelation for all time and all people, and we read it today in our Bibles.

God's law is the primary vehicle He uses to reveal His nature; it defines how He lives. If we want to be in His Kingdom and live as He does, we must obey His law, but obeying God's law in no way minimizes grace. God revealed Himself to Israel first as Redeemer and then as Lawgiver. He freed His people from their slavery in Egypt before He gave them the standard of His law. Grace precedes law. God gives grace first, but He does not leave His people ignorant of the life that pleases Him, which is revealed in His law.

The plumb line combines grace and law, and God will test us against both. If we rely on His grace without law, or on His law without grace, we will not pass the test. If either is abused, we will not measure up to the standard.

Leviticus 19 shows that the revelation of the law is important because it is a verbal description of God's nature. Our God is a holy God (verse 2), and He expects His representatives to be holy also. But how do we become holy?

After God redeems us from sin and extends to us His Spirit and grace—His free, unmerited election, He expects us to follow His instructions. The remainder of Leviticus 19 fills in the details—we become holy by doing these things. These actions reflect God's nature. Since God is holy, His law is holy, and if we follow His holy law, we can—with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—grow to be holy like our holy God.

God chose Israel and extended the offer for a relationship with Him, to walk and fellowship with Him. After Israel's rejection of it, He has now extended this offer to those He has specifically called and chosen (John 6:44; I Corinthians 1:26-29).

God loves His people and gives them redemption, grace. He expects it will result in obedience to His law, the reflection of His nature, so on occasion, He holds a plumb line against them to check their progress. But when He sees that they have rejected His way of life, He has no choice but to try to guide them to repentance—by any means necessary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:11-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Unfortunately, during these terrible times when God's Word is most needed to help the people come to repentance, it will be almost impossible to find. When the people finally realize that God wants them to repent, it will be too late. The seeds of their destruction have been sown, and the crop is already ripe. The only truth available to them in the tumult of God's judgment is what they can remember. It is for this reason that God warns us in these times to "[redeem] the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

If our hope in the Kingdom of God, the resurrection of the dead, and sharing life with God eternally are not sufficient to motivate us to repent, perhaps fear of a terrible calamity, the Great Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, or being spewed from God's mouth as a Laodicean will move us to use the present to secure the future. God prophesies to motivate us to cling to Him and His Word right now, and He is willing to scare us nearly to death in order to save us.

During this famine, "They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it" (Amos 8:12). Amos probably refers to the Dead and Mediterranean Seas, east to west, and adds "north to east," describing a triangle with the south direction left out. Why would he do this?

On a map of Palestine, the Dead Sea lies to the east, the Mediterranean to the west and the nation of Israel to the north. What lies to the south? Jerusalem, where the truth was! In Amos' day, the truth was taught in God's Temple in Jerusalem.

Israelites wanted to be known as seekers of the truth, but in reality they did not want it. Their pride would not allow them to pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the truth, for that meant they would need to humble themselves before the Word of God.

Wander can be rendered "stagger" like a drunk or "tremble" like lips quivering in agitation because one is so angry or fearful he is unable to speak. It shows the people in a state of panic and intense agitation. They are desperately searching for what they had regarded so lightly: God, the Bible, His truth. But they cannot find them anywhere!

Thus they will seek any kind of religion, and many will fall prey to false ones. This scenario is already happening in modern Israel. New Age, mystical, and Eastern religions are growing steadily, and many "Christians" feel free to borrow "truth" from other religions. Additionally, recent years have seen the rise of ecumenical movements within a broad spectrum of religious bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Jonah 4:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's patience delays His wrath, allowing time for good to occur. We should also note the other qualities patience is combined with here and in Exodus 34:6. In combination with patience, the qualities of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, goodness, and truth allow God to work with people so they can remain alive and eventually transform into His image. If God struck out at people just as short-fused humans frequently do, no one would be alive today. Jonah, in a typically human reaction, wanted God to wipe the sinners of Nineveh, Israel's enemy, off the face of the earth!

Nineveh was undoubtedly just as full of sinners as Israel. But God, bearing patiently with them in their ignorance, sent Jonah to proclaim His warning message to them: Destruction would fall on them in forty days. They, however, believed the message, proclaimed a fast, prayed mightily to God, repented, and turned from their evil ways. Their repentance may not have been Davidic, but under the circumstances God was pleased.

II Peter 3:9 affirms that God still operates in the same manner:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Romans 2:3-6 discusses the same theme on a more personal basis, warning us that we should not abuse God's patience by viewing it as inattention, indulgence or mere tolerance. Solomon warns of the same perversity of nature that reveals itself in those lacking faith (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). Clearly, God's patience is exercised so He can work on the situation and produce repentance. All too frequently, though, His goodness and patience are abused through stubbornness or neglect. Be assured, God is aware, and there comes a time when His patience is exhausted and His judgment falls if the change God expected does not occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Zephaniah 2:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Looking at this in the light of the larger context, God prophesies judgment—only not just on Assyria but on the whole world. With this thought in mind, chapter two opens with an appeal to God's people to gather together. This is not merely a plea to congregate, which may indeed be implied, but it is not the main thrust of the advice given here. Rather, it is to gather one's thoughts, to meditate, to pull things together in one's mind, to think about their consequences on the nation, on the individual, on one's loved ones. God wants us to consider these things as a first step toward repentance, so he says, "Change direction, turn to righteousness and perhaps you will be hidden during His anger."

"Perhaps" might throw a person into discouragement or doubt, but God is not playing with our emotions. The measure of doubt expressed concerns whether men will repent. We must never forget that God is a God of salvation. He is a God of deliverance. It is His desire to deliver and to protect, and certainly He is never without means to save. Nothing is too hard for Him, if we give Him a chance, which is why it says, "Seek the Lord now, before the destruction comes." This is the warning: "Watch, but don't just stand there passively! Gather your thoughts and think about the implications of this. Where is it leading?" He is appealing to us to respond.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 3)


 

Zephaniah 3:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"She obeyed not the voice." This is what led to Jerusalem's downfall!

The Voice of God was in the prophet He sent with a message to bring about repentance, and she did not obey it. The preacher or prophet gives sound to the Voice of God and His words. The people heard the sound, but they did not believe. So, their sin persisted.

Christian preaching is the preaching of Christ. Do not misunderstand this. It is not "preaching about Christ" but "the preaching of Christ"—meaning preaching what Christ Himself preached. Obviously, some of what Christ preached was about Himself, but it included a great deal more than that. Only when we preach what Christ preached are we able to have the faith of Christ—the faith that saves—because Christ preached what He believed. What He believed was the message that He heard from the Father.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)


 

Haggai 2:11-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is teaching us through Haggai that the uncleanness of this world can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot!

In like manner, preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person, because in this lesson, it represents something internal—a matter of the heart. It is an intangible spiritual thing that accrues as a result of spending long periods of time learning, understanding, and honing one's spiritual skills. It is too late when a skill is needed immediately, and it is not there.

The same is true of character. It cannot be borrowed or lent. We cannot borrow a relationship with God. It is non-transferable as holiness is non-transferable. This teaches us that opportunity knocks, and then it passes.

The foolish virgins of Matthew 25 failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom might come later than expected. When they were awakened by the shout, there was no time to do anything except to fill their lamps.

Nobody can deliver his brother. Each person within his relationship with God determines his own destiny. The Laodicean's faith has become perfunctory (Revelation 3:15-19). He attends church and is involved socially with brethren, but in daily life and private times, he merely goes through the motion in much the same manner as the Israelites in Amos' day (see, for instance, Amos 5:1-27).

God shows that those unprepared are not admitted to His Kingdom, but this should not be construed as a callous rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire. For, unless the Laodicean repents, he has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis—day after day declining to do God's will, even though it is in his mind to desire the Kingdom. He is not taking care of business, so God gives the Laodicean what he shows by his life what he really wants.

This is the principle of reciprocity. It is similar to an unmarried person who, despite surface appearances to the contrary, never makes preparations for his or her coming marriage. Suppose a man meets a woman who could become his future mate, but even though there may be admiration on his part, the relationship never develops because the woman does little or nothing to show her own admiration. A Laodicean is like this woman, rarely showing any affection for God, too busy to deepen the relationship.

We have to seek God—that is our part. It cannot be casual. It has to be zealous. Is that not what God says to the Laodicean? "Be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Zechariah 7:4-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This actually confirms that God permits national observances. His complaint is not with the observance of the fasts per se, but with the attitude in which the Jews observed them. The Jews' attitude abused something permitted but not commanded. God expresses His disapproval of the ethical and spiritual attitudes that underlay their outward observance. He questions their sincerity and motivation during their fasts, which should have been times of prayer and repentance. They should have used the time to recall the sins that had led them into the slavery that made calling the fasts so necessary. They should have been searching for any remnant of those sins still residing in them and repenting of them. In Isaiah 58:5, God asks, "Is it a fast that I have chosen?" God is scolding the Jews in the same way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

Zechariah 12:10-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This prophecy affords us insight into the painfully heartfelt repentance of an entire nation across every social strata. This ought to give us a clear picture of the depth of feeling God expects when we recognize what our sins have produced. It is very evident that mourning accompanies and motivates the kind of change that God approves. It is no wonder, then, that Jesus says that mourners are blessed (Matthew 5:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Malachi 3:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John the Baptist fulfilled this role before Christ's first coming (Matthew 17:12-13). He was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight'" (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23). He brought an urgent message of the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God and the need to

repent, turn from sin, and change one's entire attitude and way of life. . . . But the repentance had to be real and thorough; the repentant person had to "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8). . . . It was a stern, fiery, fearless warning of imminent doom from which escape was possible only by prompt and genuine repentance matched by thorough obedience to God's will. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1109)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
New Name - Same Teaching!


 

Matthew 3:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Fruit symbolizes the consequence or product of repentance. The fruit of repentance toward God is, among other things, a change of attitude toward Him and His law (Romans 8:7). It represents quenching one's enmity toward Him, as well as turning from disobedient to His Word to obedient. It may also indicate a change of status and relationship from son of Satan (John 8:44) to son of God (Romans 8:14).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

Matthew 3:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Bear[ing] fruits worthy of repentance" implies a process. Just as a tree does not produce fruit overnight, a Christian does not fully repent overnight. It is a lifelong process of making changes, and over time we will produce the fruit of the Spirit more consistently than the works of the flesh.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Matthew 4:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ links repentance with the Kingdom of God and believing the gospel. Once one hears the true gospel and believes it, he begins to change the way he thinks. Peter ties repentance with forgiveness of past sins and God's giving of His Spirit. Once the Ethiopian eunuch heard Philip's explanation of the Bible, he changed his thinking (repented) and was baptized. Initial repentance includes recognition, acceptance, and belief of the true gospel and making changes in one's life to conform to the new way.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Matthew 4:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is it not clear that Jesus Christ came preaching the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17-23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2, 60; Luke 16:16)? Does this not suggest that this was what He wanted to be preached at all times? It certainly seems that way! It was His only focus! He says He had to go and preach to other cities the Kingdom of God, and He sent His disciples out, saying, "You preach the Kingdom of God too."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Matthew 4:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus Christ was on earth, He preached theĀ gospel of the Kingdom of GodĀ (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15). However, something foundational happened before He began preaching the gospel and performing the various miracles that showed He was from God. Something essential happened before He could preach and perform works as a man. We can find what this was in John 10:36-38:

. . . do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.

The key element appears in verse 36. Jesus says that He was sanctified before He was sent into the world. He was set apart in order to do all that He did, and that certainly includes the preaching of the gospel. His three-and-a-half-year ministry was the result of the sanctifying done by the Father.

The gospel accounts are overflowing with statements by Christ that show that all of His words and actions had their source in the Father. His preaching of the gospel is no exception. The content of His message and the power to proclaim it both came from the Father.

Jesus testifies in Luke 4:18 that He was "anointed" to preach the gospel to the poor, another way of saying that He was set apart. He says that He could do nothing of Himself, but only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19, 30). He declares that the works He did bore witness that the Father had sent Him, meaning He was being directed by the Father (John 5:36-37; 8:18). He asserts that He could do nothing of Himself, but He could speak only as the Father taught Him and of what He had seen while He was with the Father (John 8:28, 38). He states that He did not speak on His own authority, but that the Father commanded Him in what He should speak (John 12:49).

John the Baptist demonstrates this same principle when saying, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27).

All of these statements set the stage for understanding Christ's preaching. When Jesus went about preaching the gospel, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15), the only reason it had any effect is because He had been sanctified—set apart—by the Father to do this.

When Jesus said that it was the Father who was actually doing the works, the preaching of the gospel was one of them (John 10:32; 14:10). This means that, regardless of what human instrument God uses or what method He employs, the reality is that it is God who preaches the gospel! If He is not the Source of everything, as He was for Jesus, then it is a work of man and not of God, and "the weary workers toil in vain" (Psalm 127:1, paraphrase).

It actually does not take anything miraculous to know what the true gospel is or to speak the words. In fact, when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the gospel, they did not even have the Holy Spirit! They were not even really converted yet, though they had been called. Even so, if something is going to be accomplished, it will be as a result of God's sanctification, which the disciples had. That is the consistent biblical pattern.

The bottom line, then, is that the gospel is not preached through human effort or human will. It is proclaimed through submission to God's leadership. If submission to God is absent, the works that God desires will not be produced. If men go outside God's will—however well-intentioned they may be—their words, to borrow from Shakespeare, may as well be the proverbial "tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

David C. Grabbe
"This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached"


 

Matthew 5:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A specific type of mourning is the kind that receives the comfort of God. Millions, perhaps billions, of mourners in the world do not come within the scope of Jesus' statement. These mourners may even be under God's condemnation and far from receiving any of His comfort.

The Bible shows three kinds of sorrow. The first is the natural grief that arises from tragic circumstances. The second is a sinful, inordinate, hopeless sorrow that can even refuse to be comforted. Perhaps the outstanding biblical example of this is Judas, whose remorse led him to commit a further sin, self-murder. Paul, in II Corinthians 7:10, calls this "the sorrow of the world [which] produces death." The third sorrow is godly sorrow. In the same verse, Paul writes, "For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted. . . ."

Mourning, grief, or sorrow is not a good thing in itself. What motivates it, combined with what it produces, is what matters. Thus, II Corinthians 7:10 states a vital key: The mourning that Jesus teaches is a major spiritual component of godly repentance that leads to or helps to produce the abundant life of John 10:10.

This principle arises often in secular life because humans seem bound and determined to learn by painful experience. For example, only when our health is either breaking or broken down, and we are suffering the painful effects of ignorantly or willfully ignoring health laws, do we make serious efforts to discover causes that lead to recovery of health and relief from the pains of disease. At that point we truly want to bring the comfort of good health back into our life.

Solomon addresses this truism in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Solomon is in no way saying that feasting and laughter are to be avoided, but rather he is comparing their relative value to life. Feasting does not contain an inherent power to motivate positive change in the way one is living. Instead, it motivates one to remain as he is, feeling a sense of temporary well-being. Contrariwise, sorrow—especially when pain or death is part of the picture (Psalm 90:12)—has an intrinsic power to draw a person to consider the direction of his path and institute changes that will enhance his life.

This general principle applies to virtually all life's difficulties. Whether health problems or financial difficulties, family troubles or business hassles, in falling into them and being delivered from them, we generally follow this pattern. However, spiritually, in our relationship with God, some variations from this general principle arise because God is deeply involved in leading and guiding our creation into His image.

In this case, not everything is happening "naturally." He intervenes in the natural processes of our life and calls us, revealing Himself and His will to us. His goodness leads us to repentance. By His Spirit we are regenerated, taught, guided, and enabled. He creates circumstances in our life by which we are moved to grow and become like Him in character and perspective, but some of these circumstances cause a great deal of sorrow. By His grace He supplies our every need so that we are well equipped to meet His demands on our life and glorify Him.

But Jesus' teaching never detaches this principle of sorrow or mourning from God's purpose because the right kind of mourning properly directed has the power to motivate wonderfully positive results. God definitely wants results, fruit produced through our relationship with Him. As Jesus says, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8).

Concerning Matthew 5:4, William Barclay writes in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew:

It is first of all to be noted about this beatitude that the Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. . . . It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes. (p. 93)

This illustrates mourning's emotional power, indicating it has enough power to produce the resolve to accomplish more than merely feeling badly and crying.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus gives this beatitude, He does not say, "Blessed are those that have mourned" but "Blessed are those who mourn." He states it as a present and continuous experience. Repentance is not a one-time experience, nor does human nature, "the old man," simply disappear after we receive the new nature. Christianity involves a continuous learning and growing process. We are not instantly created in the image of God by fiat. God has decreed that we must live by faith, and that requires time and experience. We are created in the image of God through the fires of life's sorrows and adversities, as well as its joys. Even of our Savior, Isaiah writes, "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Paul adds,

Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)

The Christian is one whose mind is attuned to God's through an ever-deepening relationship. He has much to mourn over because the sins he commits—both of omission and commission—are a daily sense of grief and will remain so as long as his conscience stays tender. A tender conscience becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. An active and growing relationship with God will lead to an enhanced discovery of human nature's depravity because God will faithfully reveal the massive gulf between His holiness and our corrupt and ever-polluting heart. He will make us conscious of the distance and coldness of our love, the surges of pride and doubt, and the lack of fruit we produce.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 5:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The heart is central to this because in the Bible the heart stands for the seat, source, reservoir, and instigator of our thoughts, attitudes, desires, character, and motivation. It is synonymous with our modern use of "mind," since the mind is where we hold knowledge, attitudes, motivations, affections, desires, likes, and dislikes.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Obviously, the quality of the heart is the issue in this beatitude. Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Our Father directly addresses the book of Proverbs to His sons (Proverbs 1:7). It assumes our hearts have been purified by His initial cleansing, that we have received His Spirit, and are in the process of sanctification and going on to perfection. Ezekiel explains this process:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

This does not all take place in an instant. It is a process, and as we have all discovered from Scripture and our own experience since baptism, human nature is still very much alive within us (Romans 7:13-25). Paul confirms this in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish."

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep—that is, guard, preserve, and maintain—our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits. In stark reality, Romans 8:7 and Jeremiah 17:9 show why: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God's holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

Jesus preaches on this in Matthew 15:16-20:

So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

It is sin that defiles holiness. In terms of character, of being in the image of God, sin defiles, pollutes, contaminates, or blurs the reflection of God in us. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Purity of heart is a work in progress in which both God and man share responsibility. Many scriptures show that God will cleanse by pardoning sin. But our responsibility in cleansing is very important and frequently mentioned along with what we must do to be cleansed. Notice how clearly James shows purifying is our responsibility: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

How is this purifying done? I Peter 1:22 makes a summary statement: "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart." Obedience to the truth through the Spirit purifies our character by inculcating right habits within it.

After commanding us to clean ourselves up, Isaiah adds, "Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17). Likewise, after admonishing us to guard our heart, our Father says:

Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:24-27)

Jeremiah 4:14 adds, "O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?"

Psalm 24:3-4 asks a searching question and gives a clear and important answer to all of us: "Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully." These two brief verses broadly cover conduct, motivation, attitude, and prioritizing one's life.

To meet these qualifications requires "truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). A deceitful heart will never meet the standards because it does not operate from a foundation of godly integrity. David says in verse 5 that, humanly, he was shaped in iniquity. God, with our cooperation through faith, is ultimately the Creator of a pure heart in us, but it is a protracted process achieved by imparting a holy nature by His Spirit. This unites us with a holy Christ, with whom we fellowship, washing us in the blood of the Lamb so that with His aid we can mortify the flesh and live toward God, giving Him first priority in everything.

We will never be pure as God is pure in this life. Our purity is at best only in part. We are partly purified from our former darkness; our will is partly purified from its rebellion; our desires are partly purified from desires, avarice and pride. But the work of cleansing has begun, and God is faithful to finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6).

Interestingly, when Peter refers to God's calling of Gentiles in Acts 15:9, he says God "made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." He uses "purifying" in the sense of a continuous experience. In Titus 3:5, Paul also uses "renewing of the Holy Spirit" in the same ongoing sense. We must see purity of heart in this sense because as James 3:2, 8 states, "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. . . . But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." By daily denying the self, sincerely confessing and wholehearted obedience, we work toward purity.

However, it is not enough to be pure in words and outward conduct. Purity of desires, motives, and intents should characterize the child of God. We need to examine ourselves, searching diligently whether we have freed ourselves from the dominion of hypocrisy. Are our affections set on things above? Has the fear of the Lord grown strong enough that we love what He loves and hate what He hates? Are we conscious of and do we deeply grieve over the filth we yet find within ourselves? Are we conscious of our foul thoughts, vile imaginations, evil desires? Do we mourn over our pride? Perhaps the heaviest burden of a pure heart is seeing the ocean of unclean things still in him, casting its filth into his life and fouling what he does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It could be difficult to understand what Scripture means when it describes one who is angry without cause. One might think a person has to have a cause to be angry. Jesus is saying that, if a person has an angry nature—if he flies off the handle at the drop of a hat—he has a character flaw of which he must repent.

John O. Reid
Don't Take God for Granted


 

Matthew 8:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The three accounts tell us that a leper "came and worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2), "imploring Him, kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40), and "fell on his face and implored Him" (Luke 5:12). That the leper "came" and "implored" shows his sincerity in seeking and pleading with Christ. He earnestly determined to reach Him, despite the obstacle of the crowd and the spectacle of his horrid disease. Coming before Christ was the great challenge of his life, so he did what was necessary to overcome his disadvantages.

"Implored" suggests the leper's sincerity in pleading with Him, implying that he pled earnestly, desperate for a resolution to his condition. Sadly, few of us can see the true devastation that sin has caused in our lives and how much we need spiritual healing.

All three Gospels record the leper's reverence for Christ, though each reports it a bit differently: Matthew says that the leper "worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2); Mark, that he came "kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40); and Luke, that he "fell on his face" (Luke 5:12) before Him. Each account describes him bowing down before Him—even Matthew's worshipped means "prostrated before." The leper's humble approach conspicuously honored Him, for, unlike many today, the leper did not hide his respect for Christ out of fear of other's opinions.

In contrast, the arrogant will not gain His favor. This society dishonors Christ at every turn with its repeated profanity, its banning of God from public venues, and its rejection of truth and acceptance of the flawed reasonings of men. Such dishonoring of Christ is bringing on our nations an avalanche of curses rather than blessings, and it will not stop until the people repent.

The leper says, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2), indicating confidence and trust in Christ. True faith always honors both Christ's power and person. Never doubting His power to heal, the leper submits himself to His will. Some prayers we know God will answer positively, as when we ask in faith for forgiveness. However, when we ask for healing or other physical needs, we must faithfully respect God's decision, whatever it may be. By faith, we must acknowledge His superior wisdom in granting our request or not. The leper, in his humility and faith, would never demand God's healing, as though God owed him. It is not our right to be healed, and truly, we deserve death as the penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23). Yet, God heals us according to His mercy and will. A faithful person realizes that reverence should not stop him from asking God for blessings, but he submits to the wise will of God.

The leper does not downplay his condition, making it sound less offensive or serious than it was. He is truthful about his case, confessing his uncleanness, as the Bible considers leprosy (Leviticus 13:45). Interestingly, the leper asks to be cleansed, not to be healed. Of course, the cleansing is a healing, but "cleansing" is the more proper term. Christ makes the distinction between cleansing and healing when commissioning the apostles: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers" (Matthew 10:8).

The filthiness of sin can be removed only by the cleansing blood of Christ (I John 1:7). Isaiah writes, "We are all as an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6), and David, recognizing that his immorality and murder had polluted him, prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10). We all must be cleansed of sin. Even so, until we are truthful about our sinfulness, shown in sincere repentance, we will not be cleansed.

Mark 1:40 refers to Christ six times: "Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.'" The leper wisely chose the right Person to go to for help, for Christ was the only One who could cleanse him. Proverbs 1:5 says, "A wise man will hear and increase learning," and the leper, hearing what Jesus taught and learning what He could do, made a wise choice.

Similarly, Christ is the only One who can cleanse us from sin and lead us to salvation. Peter says in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Paul writes, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). If anyone comes to Christ for salvation, he is acting wisely. Seeking it from anyone or anything else is foolish because no one else can truly deliver us.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Two)


 

Matthew 12:41-42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment and condemn the people of Jesus' generation because they did not respond to the message of repentance He brought. Then He says the queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba, will also condemn this generation because they did not understand the wisdom that Jesus brought—wisdom far greater than Solomon's.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 2): Leaven


 

Matthew 17:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's patient and enduring handling of sinners demonstrates His longsuffering. God promises that He will be long-tempered with us as we repent and dedicate ourselves to the obedience and service of God. As in everything else, Jesus Christ sets the standard of longsuffering.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering


 

Matthew 21:28-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These five verses are a parable, not to the disciples, but to the chief priests and elders of the people, whose heritage or fine credentials alone would not give them the right to continue to rule. He tells the story of a son who says he will work and then does not as opposed to a son who says he will not but repents and does his father's wishes. The former son is the leadership of Israel who agreed to the covenant but rejected it. The latter son is the publicans and harlots whose lives were sinful but who were willing to repent. Similarly, in I Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul attests that Christ will build His church through the weak and base, not the ones men think should be first.

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Matthew 21:28-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 21:28-32 contains the story of two sons, one who said he would not do the work his father asked of him, yet did, and another who promised to work, but did not.

Jesus may have taken the theme of this parable from Isaiah 5:1-7, which some commentators call "The Song of the Vineyard." God pictures Israel and Judah as a vineyard. He does all He can for them, planting, protecting, and feeding them, but instead of the vineyard producing wonderful grapes, it produces wild grapes that are good for nothing. The reason: His people will not listen to Him. They promise to obey and give the appearance of belonging to Him, but they will not really work at it. Thus, they do not produce what God expected.

Who are the characters in the Parable of the Two Sons? The father is God. The first son, who flatly refuses to work in the vineyard, represents the weak, foolish, and base of this world (see I Corinthians 1:26-27). The second son, who promises to work yet never shows up, represents hypocrites, those who appear or profess one way but act another. The work the father asks them to do corresponds to living God's way of life.

The first son, who answers, "I will not," gives a carnal answer from a carnal mind. This is the mind all of us had before God called us out of the world. His answer displays no hypocrisy because he sincerely did not want to come under God's authority. He is guilty of bold rebellion.

The second son, who says, "I go," makes a promise that he never fulfills—and possibly never intends to fulfill. His word contradicts his performance. While his father is present, he conceals his determination to disobey; he is a liar. As Jesus says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" This son's guilt combines deception with disobedience.

In the parable both sons hear and respond verbally to their father's command, one negatively, one positively. The one who promises to obey but never follows through is just as guilty as if he had refused from the first. Though his promise to work may make him look good on the surface, his father will never accept his act of disobedience.

At this point, we have no reason to prefer one above the other; both are guilty of sin. However, their ultimate actions prove them different. After his blunt refusal, the first son repents of his sin and goes to work for his father. He sets his heart to do what his father wants. Though he promptly promises, the second son fails to perform. The first changes from bad to good, but the second does not change at all—if he makes any change, he goes from bad to worse!

Toward the end of the parable, Jesus poses the question: "Which of the two did the will of his father?" The obvious answer is he who repented and went to work. Then Jesus tells the Pharisees that the tax collectors and harlots would go in to His Kingdom before them because these blatant sinners believed and repented, while the "religious" people did not.

The warning to us is not to be a son who promises to work, then neglects to keep his word. God has called us, and we have accepted that calling, promising we would work. Now we must perform what we have promised.

We are living in the Laodicean era of God's church, and the effect of this is that many are letting down. Many are not faithfully keeping God's commandments and are neglecting His Sabbath and holy days. Church attendance is sporadic. Tithing is erratic. Too many have lost their zeal for God and His way of life, and they are veering away from the path to the Kingdom.

For many, things are going well, as they are indeed "rich and increased with goods" by this world's standards. Somehow, we equate this as God's approval, but God may well be patiently letting out rope so that we will either hang on to what God has given us or hang ourselves.

John O. Reid
Giving Your Word


 

Matthew 21:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The character of each son is vastly different. One son is independent, disobedient, and insolent, but after thinking about his ways, returns to carry out his responsibility. The second is a big talker, full of promises but no action. In these two men, Christ describes, on the one hand, sinners of all types, who, when convicted by John the Baptist and Himself, turned away from their iniquities, repented, and obeyed God. On the other hand are the scribes, Pharisees, and other self-righteous people who feign a zeal for the law but will not receive the gospel.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Sons


 

Matthew 21:31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The sons' ultimate actions reveal their difference. The first son, after open refusal, repents of his sin—better late than never—and goes to work for his father. He overcomes and changes from bad to good. After experiencing the negative results of sin, he yields to God's instruction, changing direction and doing as his father commanded him—the fruit of his repentance.

The proof of our repentance comes to light when we comply with the Father's will and do good works with the help of the Holy Spirit. The result is the production of the fruit of the Spirit.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Sons


 

Matthew 22:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This third invitation reveals divine mercy offered to the Gentiles in addition to the Israelites. The good and bad represent the whole spectrum of moral character. The king's invitation shows no partiality; God can call both the good and the bad out of this world. But will the person repent, change his ways? Human goodness cannot earn an invitation to be called. So the good and bad are only welcome by invitation from God through the blood of Christ.

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Matthew 25:10-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

While the foolish are busy trying to get their spiritual lives in order at the last minute, Christ comes to take the wise, and the doors to the marriage feast are shut (Matthew 25:10-13). Only those virgins who have a regular supply of oil and combine it with the lamp of God, the Bible, can hear the true voice of their Shepherd calling to them through His true ministers, including the Two Witnesses. The foolish virgins, representing many ministers too, will at first scoff at these two men and ignore their warnings. But when the Two Witnesses begin performing miracles, the foolish virgins will start to wake from their deep sleep; they will begin to repent and ask God for His Spirit.

God the Father has the authority and Jesus Christ has paid the price to enable us to have oil in our vessels. Everyone called by God must pay a price, obedience to God, to receive His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This means we must repent and overcome sin on a daily basis.

Staff
Y2K: You-2-the-Kingdom


 

Matthew 28:18-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 18, the emphasis is on the word "all." His authority is no longer as it was when He was a man preaching in Galilee and Judea but is once again universal. It is "as it was when He was with the Father" before. He has died and been resurrected, and all authority is once again His. Therefore, His disciples are to understand that wherever they go, everything is subject to His authority. This is a good thing to remember: Everything is subject to Christ's authority.

As they go, they are to make disciples. Teaching and baptizing do not make a person a disciple, though they play a part. Just because a person is baptized does not mean he is converted. Nor does it mean he is a member of the church of God or part of the Family of God. Just because he has been taught the way of God does not mean that he has fully accepted and committed himself to what has been taught.

This is why the emphasis must be on "making disciples." Baptism and obedience to instruction will be a response a person will make who is being made a disciple.

The preaching of the gospel brings a person to faith, repentance, baptism, and seeking further instruction. These are outward responses.

At this point, baptism is very important because it is the outward sign of something exceedingly more important than the fact that one has been "dunked." Baptism is the outward sign of commitment—of coming under the authority of the Father and the Son. Disciples are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is only when a person comes under or is committed to the authority of the Family of God that he is truly a disciple. This marks the difference between one who is truly a disciple and another who has only been dunked.

Once a person has been truly baptized and has truly committed himself to be under the authority of the Family of God, the issue for the disciple is continued learning as a student and loyalty as a member of the Family—as a new creation to the One he has committed himself to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Mark 1:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The conditions for entering God's Kingdom are simple in concept: "repent and believe in the gospel." Repentance is a complete turning or changing of the mind and way of life to follow God. And God's way of life is defined by His commandments (Matthew 19:17). We repent by quitting our former sinful way of life and keeping God's commands.

Believing the gospel encompasses both believing in Christ as well as believing what He said (John 8:30-31). Millions believe that He came as their Savior and now lives eternally as their soon-coming King, while paradoxically rejecting the very message He brought to save them!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

Mark 11:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The highest Jewish authorities—the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders—were fully aware of John's reputation as a prophet, and they feared it. These men, who were accustomed to the use of power and authority within a nation, would not fear something they did not respect, and they would not respect a wild crazy man. When John talked, people listened. They had something to lose by yielding to his preaching, and so they would not repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)


 

Luke 5:36-39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The new wine represents the truth of God, while the old wine represents the traditions of the culture that we have been born into. These traditions have produced the prejudices that we do not want to get rid of whenever the new wine comes. We are the vessel, and if we do not have the willingness to change, then we will be "burst"—the old wineskin by the new wine. A process of destruction begins to take place unless we too become new.

Jesus understood the principle that was working against Him in His own life. He was coming with the good news that was really new to these people, and what did they do? They hated it so much that they rejected not only the message, but they also rejected and put the Messenger to death.

This lesson is in the Book so that we will understand how powerful the impulse to reject the truth of God is within us. This impulse makes us feel comfortable with the old and unwilling to face up to the new. We rationalize, "Oh, it doesn't matter. It won't affect me," which is, in a sense, gambling with the laws of God. As Paul shows in Romans 1-3, we cannot gamble against the laws of God and win. We will lose every time.

So, why not face up to it? That is Jesus' point. Why not pay the price? Why not accept the truth of God? Why not repent and live?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 2)


 

Luke 7:42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Simon admits that the one forgiven more would feel the most obligated and should love more. Jesus succeeds in causing Simon, by his own admission, to pronounce judgment on himself for misconstruing the woman's act, doubting Christ Himself, and dishonoring his guest.

All three people knew the woman had many sins, but Jesus' declaration that her sins were forgiven—in contrast to Simon's condemnation—conveys great love. She, in turn, responds by expressing lavish love upon Him. Christ was willing to forgive Simon as He did the repentant woman. However, while both debtors in the parable are forgiven, Luke gives no indication that Simon repented.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ wants Simon to realize that her loving and faithful attitude is what is required for forgiveness (II Corinthians 7:9-10). His emphasis is on the words "you" and "this." Jesus could discern Simon's attitude. Simon saw nothing but the woman's past reputation as a reckless, rejected, sleazy woman. Then Jesus delicately and graciously exposes Simon's callousness, hatred, and poor judgment. He also points out to him the depth of her repentance and faith. Her past may have been full of sin, but because of her genuinely repentant attitude, display of love, and obvious faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6), Jesus discerns a desire in her to change from her old ways and begin living God's way of life.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 9:62   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our salvation hinges on a lifetime of repentance from dead works and overcoming in faith. Thus, we are counseled before baptism to be sure we have counted the cost before we take on the awesome opportunity of eternal life. Once we take hold of the plow, we cannot turn back.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Luke 12:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We need to understand that it is God's purpose, because He is love, to do everything in His power to cover sin. He does not want people to be exposed. He will do whatever He can to keep us from being embarrassed, but if we refuse to repent, then He will follow through with this principle. Because He loves us so much, He will embarrass us to tears to get us to repent.

He will hold us up to shame and scorn, as He did to His beloved David, who would not repent after committing adultery with Bathsheba. Eventually, God had to send a prophet to bring him to repentance, warning David that, athough what he did was done in secret, but what will happen as a result will be done in public.

What we do means a lot—because there is a God who loves us! He does not want to see us as victims of our own sins. He also does not want to see innocent people victimized even by things that we do privately, in secret. There is no such thing as "the perfect crime." The effect of what we do is going to show—unless a variable occurs to forestall it, we repent, and God is willing to cover it.

However, all the while, that sin is like an active, living organism which affects other organisms (usually, other human beings). We need to ask ourselves: "Why are we so insensitive and so indifferent to the things we do?" It is, of course, our self-centeredness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction


 

Luke 13:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The problem of human suffering and sin raises serious questions, and in His reply to such a question, Jesus' speaks of repentance and judgment (Luke 13:1-5). He continues with the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (verses 6-9), which refers to tragedy among the Galileans (verse 1). History fails to record the exact incident, but the revolutionary activities of that time made anything possible. Galileans, says Josephus, were especially susceptible to revolt.

In His discussion, Jesus does not attribute tragedy or accident directly to any person's sin as the Jews did—instead, He affirms the sinfulness of everyone. A person who flagrantly sins can expect judgment to come eventually, though it may be long delayed (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). Victims of calamity die physically, but anyone who does not repent faces spiritual death.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Barren Fig Tree


 

Luke 13:3-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Repent means "to think differently after." It signifies a change of mind strong enough to produce both regret and change of conduct. Marvin R. Vincent defines it as, "Such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets alike virtuous change of life and practice" (Word Studies of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 23). The only way that we will change our minds is when we allow ourselves to believe something different from what we formerly believed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Luke 15:14-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son unveils a clear progression from awareness of pain arising from want and recognition of sin then on to sorrow for what he had become and done. Repentance, forgiveness, and acceptance were the fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 15:17-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Scripture pictures sinfulness as a path of folly and madness, and repentance as restoration to sound-mindedness. "When he came to himself" is commonly applied to a person who recovers from being deranged. Jesus indicates that the folly of the younger son is a type of insanity, as it is with all sinners: A kind of madness is in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 9:3). They are at odds with God, indulging in evil obsessions, contrary to their better judgment. Vincent's Word Studies explains, "This striking expression—came to himself—puts the state of rebellion against God as a kind of madness. It is a wonderful stroke of art, to represent the beginning of repentance as the return of a sound consciousness." Misery and desperation may stimulate reason in a sinner when he comes to himself. Once the younger son comes to realize his distorted and unrealistic view of himself and humbly repents, he can be restored to sonship (II Corinthians 7:10-12).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part Three)


 

Luke 18:9-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The publican's is the language of the poor in spirit. We do not belong anywhere except alongside the publican, crying out with downcast eyes, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" John Calvin, the sixteenth-century theologian whose teachings form the basis of Reformed Protestantism, wrote, "He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God is poor in spirit" (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, p. 261).

Notice how Jesus brought out that the underlying attitude of the Pharisee was reliance in self. He boasted before God of all his "excellent" qualities and works, things he evidently thought would earn him God's respect. His vanity about these things then motivated him to regard others as less than himself. So we see that self-exaltation is the opposite of poor in spirit.

Poor in spirit is contrary to that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises. It is the reverse of an independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God—that determines to brave things out against His will like Pharaoh, who said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice . . .?" (Exodus 5:2). A person who is poor in spirit realizes that he is nothing, has nothing, can do nothing—and needs everything, as Jesus said in John 15:5, "Without Me you can do nothing."

In his commentary, The Sermon on the Mount, Emmett Fox provides a practical description of what "poor in spirit" means:

To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the whole-hearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life if necessary; to jettison, in fact, anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God. (p. 22)

Poverty of spirit blooms as God reveals Himself to us and we become aware of His incredible holiness and towering mercy in even calling us to be forgiven and invited to be in His Family—to be like Him! This understanding awakens us to the painful discovery that all our righteousness truly is like filthy rags by comparison (Isaiah 64:6); our best performances are unacceptable. It brings us down to the dust before God. This realization corresponds to the Prodigal Son's experience in Luke 15:14 when "he began to be in want." Soon thereafter, Jesus says, he "came to himself" (verse 17), beginning the humbling journey back to his father, repentance, and acceptance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Luke 18:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The publican and the multitude who repented at Peter's preaching felt the plague of sin, each in his own heart. This mourning springs from a conscience made tender and a heartfelt awareness of hostility toward God's will and personal rebellion against Him. It is grief expressed because one has become acutely aware that the morality he holds falls so far short of holiness that shame rises to the surface. One also feels this agony when he realizes that his personal behavior and attitudes have caused the death of his Creator and Savior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 23:39-41   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Malefactors is literally "evildoers," those who commit an offense against the law. We need to judge ourselves like this repentant malefactor did. Like him, we need to acknowledge our past sinful deeds. He demonstrated acknowledgment of his iniquity, not by his words alone, but by quietly accepting the punishment that he had brought upon himself by doing evil.

After admitting his own guilt and just punishment, the malefactor acknowledged Christ's guiltlessness and innocent suffering. Only then did he turn to the Savior for salvation in a manner reminiscent of the publican in the parable: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). He did not ask Christ to take him off the cross and spare him his just punishment. He accepted it as just and fair, expressing repentance and faith in the Savior and in the message of a future resurrection to life!

Staff
Discerning Christ's Broken Body


 

John 5:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Spiritually, He says to us: "See, I've called you out of this evil world and healed you. You must now stop sinning—repent of your wicked ways—lest you return to the world and end up worse than when you started!"

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are These the Last Days? (Part 2)


 

John 6:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God foreknew us and determined to call us before He ever made His summons known to us. By doing so, He was making a prognosis. We are in this elite group, the called, only because the great God of heaven and earth specifically and personally summoned us by forcibly bringing the good news to our attention so we would be motivated to choose to respond freely to it.

He then led us to repentance, to a personal understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and to an acceptance of it. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey the obligations of the New Covenant. It is in this combination of factors, plus a few more, that we can begin to understand the possibilities of human life. We see in Christ the pattern of what we ought to be, and the motivation to be in His image begins to arise in us. But this occurs only because God has summoned us to be in this elite group, the firstfruits, to run for this awesome goal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

John 13:6-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Kenneth N. Taylor, in his Living Gospels: The Paraphrased Gospels, puts it this way: "Master, You shouldn't be washing our feet like this!" Christ responds, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this" (verse 7).

Peter, still not convinced, flatly states, "You shall never wash my feet" (verse 8). Christ's next words, however, finally cause him to give in: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Jesus' response—whatever His tone of voice—struck the disciple squarely between the eyes: Peter's eternal life was on the line! This time, his response is quite different: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" (verse 9). This sounds a little like Psalm 51:2, where David prays, "Wash me thoroughly. . . ."

Our Savior's answer to this request is not what some would expect: "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean" (John 13:10). The New International Version's translation of this verse makes His thought clear: "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." Obviously, the disciples had bathed before coming to eat the Passover meal. But having to walk along dusty roads in sandals, they collected a small amount of dirt on their feet. Thus, Christ explains that to be perfectly clean again, all He needed to do was to wash their feet.

Upon repentance, baptism, and receiving God's Holy Spirit, we are at that point perfectly clean in God's eyes. The blood of Jesus Christ has symbolically washed away all our past sins, and we stand before Him completely sinless. We have been buried in the waters of baptism and resurrected to a new life. However, as we all know, our human nature has certainly not departed from us, and it is not very long until the fact that we have sinned again stares us in the face. The old self has not really gone away; our lives are much as they were—with some important exceptions: We now have the Holy Spirit and have been given God's grace.

Having been regenerated by God through His Spirit that He has given us, we have entered a unique relationship with God the Father. The veil that once separated us from having access to Him has been torn away by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 6:19-20; 10:19-22). Through Him, we can communicate with the Father to seek mercy and forgiveness for our sins and weaknesses. Upon repentance, God applies again the sacrifice of Christ to us and forgives us by His grace.

Now we can see that, even though we were once washed completely clean at baptism, we will occasionally sin as we walk through this life. We will spiritually get our feet dirty, and we will need Christ to wash our feet to make us completely clean again. Thus, He tells Peter, if He did not wash his feet, he would have no part with Him. None of us can carry unforgiven sins and still remain part of the body of Christ. This points out why it is so imperative that we seek His mercy and help to repent each day. When we do this, He can symbolically wash our feet and make us clean again. Each year at the Passover service, we reenact this to remind us how important it is.

Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Another Look at Footwashing


 

John 13:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The footwashing is simply a ritual, a ceremony, a symbolic act that outwardly manifests an inward attitude and conviction. In the example of Judas Iscariot, we see that though he went through the ritual, he was not really clean. The ritual could not remove the terrible sin that he was about to commit against his Creator. Because he had not repented of his sin, footwashing was meaningless to Judas.

Paul writes, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5). Isaiah urges, "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings" (Isaiah 1:16). In his psalm of repentance, on the other hand, David beseeches God, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). Thus, we see that this rededication to God at Passover is a shared effort between us and God. We renew our faith in Christ's sacrifice, redevote ourselves to the New Covenant, repent of our spiritual failings, and seek forgiveness, and He forgives us and cleanses us of our sins.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

John 14:12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we first read this verse, most of us think that Jesus is talking about miracles, signs, wonders, and healings, that is, that those of us who really believe in Him will be able to do those great works. However, He may not be thinking only about such grand acts.

He is probably also suggesting that the great works we will do are the day-to-day works of Christian living—not necessarily the ones that will make the lead story on the evening news. He means things like having good relations with one's spouse and children. He means overcoming a sin and growing in character. He means helping others in their walk toward the Kingdom of God. In the end, these are far greater works than miracles and spectacular healings.

Consider the twelve apostles. How many people did Jesus convert during His ministry? Acts 1:15 tells us that the number of disciples was only 120. Yet, just a few pages later, we find that the apostles did even greater works, baptizing 3,000 on Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and 5,000 on another day (Acts 4:4). People were saying that the apostles had "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6)! Their greater works were preaching the gospel, feeding the flock, and helping others to overcome and grow toward the Kingdom of God. Sure, they did their share of miracles, but their most lasting, eternal works were their preaching and their Christian sacrifices for the gospel.

Jesus said no one was greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), and what did he do? He did not perform one miracle, but he preached repentance (Matthew 3:1-2), which is a great work. It makes people realize that they are sinful and that they need a Savior to redeem them and to help them turn their lives around. Many were baptized and later followed Christ.

We need to apply this personally. What great works are we supposed to do? They may be mundane—overcoming sin, growing in character, producing spiritual fruit, and encouraging others in their walk with God—but they are the day-to-day Christian activities that, in the end, will assure that not only will we be in the Kingdom but those we love and fellowship with will be too. Those are truly great works! "Miraculous" works may be flashy and draw a lot of attention, but the greatest works are the ones with eternal consequences, those that help others maintain a firm grasp on salvation.

In Acts 10:38, Peter pares the life of Christ down to just a few insightful phrases: ". . . how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good . . ." That is the gist of His life: He did good with every minute He lived. The apostle Paul gives us similar marching orders in Galatians 6:10: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." If we follow this advice, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will one day be where He is.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Acts 2:37-39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have to repent. God gradually unfolds before us what the conditions for conversion are. Layer upon layer of truth, or revelation, is needed to get the fullness of a subject. So we have to repent - a condition that was not mentioned before. We have to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. We also have to have hands laid on us (Acts 8:14-17).

Here are the conditions: We have to be called (John 6:44). We have to repent. We have to believe the gospel. We have to believe in Jesus Christ. We have to begin obeying God, because God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (John 14:15-18; Acts 5:32). We have to be baptized, and we have to have hands laid on us.

This should help us to understand that the "writing of the law on our hearts" (Hebrews 8:10) is a cooperative effort. It is not something done only by God, but it absolutely requires what God does. It also requires that we do something. When a person does these things, he is meeting the terms of the New Covenant - not all of them yet.

Were there terms like this in the Old Covenant? No. What a difference exists between the two! It is no wonder that the Old Covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). It is no wonder the Old Covenant could not be kept (Hebrews 8:7). There is such a flaw, a fault, in every one of us (Hebrews 8:8). God knew this when He made the Old Covenant with Israel. Since God is love, He left us an example of how much the New Covenant means to us, so that we could look back on history and understand what awesome gifts have been given to us. By that, He hopes to create within us a deep sense of thanksgiving and of obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

Acts 2:38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From these three verses (Acts 2:38; Mark 1:15; Acts 8:12), we understand the two prerequisites for baptism: repentance and belief of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The people of Acts 2 showed by their reaction that they believed what Peter had preached (verse 37), and thus they needed only to repent of their sins and their human nature before they were baptized (verse 41). One need not be a Bible scholar or be living perfectly to be baptized; these things are part of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ after baptism (II Peter 3:18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Water Baptism


 

Acts 2:38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our first step in the salvation process is to repent from sin. This means, not only being sorry for having committed sin, but also turning or changing from a life of transgressing God's commandments to a life of obedience to them.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Acts 5:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter is saying that those who heed the gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in the sacrifice of Christ will begin to live lives of obedience to God's commandments, and thus He gives them His Spirit. However, some contend that it is not that simple.

One of the objections that has been raised to this understanding of this verse is that it is impossible to obey God before receiving His Spirit. Therefore, it would be impossible to receive God's Spirit if obedience were a requirement.

Acts 2:38 gives two basic requirements for receiving the Holy Spirit: 1) repentance and 2) faith in the sacrifice of Christ. (Baptism is an outward confession of this faith in Christ's sacrifice.) Repentance is a deep and genuine feeling of remorse over having committed sins, bringing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is accompanied by an urgent desire to make the necessary changes in our life so we avoid committing the same sins again. In other words, true repentance brings about an earnest desire to obey God. In turn, this earnest desire causes us to begin to make changes in our lifestyle to conform to God's commandments.

When John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, he demanded that his followers make changes in their lives (Luke 3:8). When John was preaching, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, but John made it clear that God expected the people to begin changing their lives to demonstrate that their repentance was genuine. Paul preached the exact same message regarding repentance before King Agrippa (Acts 26:20).

A truly repentant person will immediately begin striving to obey God. The changes that the individual makes in his life are the "fruits" that demonstrate that his repentance is genuine. This does not mean that the repentant sinner obeys God perfectly. Even those who have received the Holy Spirit do not obey God perfectly. It means that the individual has turned his life around and is oriented toward obeying God. Upon producing the fruits of repentance and demonstrating faith in the sacrifice of Christ through baptism, God gives him His Holy Spirit. As Peter simply stated, God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him!

Some contend that the obedience mentioned in this scripture is that of obeying God's command to preach the gospel, not obeying God's laws. Proponents of this explanation argue that Peter's statement came about because the authorities called the apostles into account for disobeying their command not to preach about Jesus. This derives from Peter's comment in verse 29, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, it ignores the clear requirements God lays down for receipt of the Holy Spirit—repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Nowhere in the Scripture does God require the preaching of the gospel as a prerequisite for receiving His Spirit. Rather, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God inspired and motivated the apostles to preach the gospel after they had received the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Furthermore, this interpretation ignores the overall thrust and context of Peter's statement (Acts 5:30-31).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Acts 15:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Gentiles' conversion resulted in a serious controversy in the church over whether they should be required to be circumcised. This major issue resulted in the convening of the first ministerial conference in the history of God's church (Acts 15). At this conference, the ministry was led to decide that the Gentiles do not need to be circumcised.

God revealed to the apostles that, under the New Covenant, He makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Regardless of race or ethnic origin, He extends the promises of salvation to any and all whom He chooses to call. Under the New Covenant, physical descent from Abraham no longer matters because God is concerned only over the person's repentance and faith in Christ. Those who receive the Holy Spirit after repentance and baptism become "the seed of Abraham." Additionally, because the purpose and meaning of physical circumcision have been superseded by the New Covenant, there is no need to inflict pain and possible psychological distress on an adult male through this operation.

Peter emphasizes that God looked upon the hearts of the Gentiles and saw their repentance. Although they were not circumcised, God forgave their sins because of their repentance and faith in Christ and granted them the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were, therefore, justified by faith and spiritually circumcised, that is, in heart and mind (Romans 2:28-29). During the Jerusalem conference, God revealed to the apostles that justification fulfilled the spiritual symbolism of circumcision.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Romans 2:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is through the richness of God's goodness that we find repentance. "Goodness" here is from the Greek word chrestotes, which signifies more than goodness as a quality—it is goodness in righteous action, goodness expressing itself in deeds.

God's goodness is closely associated with "kindness." Chrestotes describes the kindlier aspects of goodness. From this we can understand that, through God's kind goodness, He works with us carefully and patiently to bring us to repentance. Sometimes He firmly corrects us if we are especially hardheaded about overcoming a problem, or He may only need to reveal the problem to us. Either way, our powerful but kind God provides His Holy Spirit to help us to overcome.

Martin G. Collins
Fear the Lord's Goodness!


 

Romans 2:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul's statement assumes the people to whom he is writing know better than they are doing, and therefore, they had better repent. But whether we repent in ignorance or in knowledge, it is God's goodness, a gift of God, the grace of God, that leads to repentance. Whether it happens at our initial conversion, or whether we are later brought to repentance over some specific fault of which we need to repent to continue growing, God is on the job. He is leading, guiding, showing us where we need to change. He is probably even affecting our feelings about what we are doing so that there will be the motivation, the empowerment, and therefore the responsibility, the right, and the power to repent. God is the Great Educator, and at the same time, He is a parent chastening, disciplining, training His children.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Romans 3:21-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God can forbear with us because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for all of us. If we repent and ask God forgiveness, then Christ's blood covers all of our sins. Justice has been done. The sin has been paid for by the blood of Christ. God can thus forbear with us and allow us to "get away" with our sins for a while, because if we repent, then Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins, and justice is done. A person died for those sins—our Creator, Jesus Christ.

But if we do not repent, what happens? We die, and the penalty is paid. So this is a kind of legal maneuver by God. His forbearance is allowed under His legal system because Jesus Christ's blood pays the penalty for our sins. He can be merciful and lenient for a while, and whether we repent, or whether we do not repent, justice is ultimately served because a death occurs—either Jesus' or ours. This is the legal basis for why He can be forbearing. He has already taken care of it, one way or the other.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Romans 3:24-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Justification is not something that one earns by any kind of lawkeeping or good works, but God freely gives it to those who repent—turn from their sinful ways—and have faith in His Son's sacrifice.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 4:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we take to its logical conclusion the statement that "justification by grace through faith does away with law," then there is no such thing as sin any longer, for the law defines what sin is (see also I John 3:4). If that is true, Christ died in vain.

In addition, it violently flies in the face of two clear facts: 1) Two thousand years after Christ shed His blood to pay the penalty for sin—providing the means for justification—we still must repent of sin to be forgiven. That has not changed, so sin must still exist and law still exists. Thus, the Ten Commandments still exist, as sin is the transgression of that law. How can this be if there is no law to transgress? 2) The New Testament record of Jesus Christ's and the apostles' exhortations to Christians not to sin, especially after one is forgiven.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Romans 5:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.

God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Romans 5:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word "stand" is translated from the Greek histemi, and in this context it means "to continue, endure, or persist." Our calling, election (Romans 11:5-6), repentance (Romans 2:4), and justification enable us to stand before God in the sense of being given access into His presence. After that, receiving the gift of His Spirit and continuing on to salvation itself are accomplished by means of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Romans 8:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How does God's Spirit help us to overcome? Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because of their disobedience, an attitude, a spirit, of sin and rebellion entered into them and separated them from God. That spirit is enmity against God (Romans 8:7-9). It is a poison, a spiritual disease, that contaminates each individual as he adjusts to a sin-filled world and makes the same poor choices that Adam and Eve made.

However, once God calls a person, if he allows God to humble him, then upon repentance, he is prepared for the indwelling of God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the antidote for the noxious, evil spirit of sin that humanity has followed since the Garden of Eden. Our carnal spirit, mimicking the attitudes of Satan, is prideful and self-serving, but God's pure and powerful Spirit can heal us and make it possible for us to keep God's laws by dissolving our proud, selfish nature. Once this process has begun, we can then begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Yet, we cannot take the indwelling of God's Spirit for granted. When David sinned with Bathsheba and conspired in the death of Uriah the Hittite, he drifted from God for several months at least, for it was not until around the time that the baby was born that the prophet Nathan shocked the king into awareness of what he had done (II Samuel 12:14-15). In his psalm of repentance, he cries, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11; emphasis ours throughout). He realized that by his neglect of seeking God daily, he had been dangerously close to losing all contact with God. Thus, he asks God to renew His Spirit within him and not take it away.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul also speaks of renewing God's Spirit in us. He writes in II Corinthians 4:16, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." Speaking of the "new man" again in Ephesians 4, he instructs the brethren, ". . . put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and . . . put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness" (verses 22-24).

Clearly, God wants us to be in contact with Him every day by His Spirit.

Daryl White
Ask and It Will Be Given


 

Romans 8:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God gives His Spirit to those that He calls and leads to repentance, and they become His children. They become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). They are led into truth for the purposes of spiritual obedience—good works and preparation for His Kingdom. Soon, they begin showing His characteristics.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian and the World (Part 2)


 

Romans 12:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that the days of sacrifice are not over. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice. Sacrificing has been transferred from the physical slaughtering of animals to the sacrifice of the self, from the slaying of a dumb and uncomprehending beast to the intelligent and deliberate choice of an understanding human, made in the image of God.

The principles of the sacrifices given in Leviticus 1-5 and so forth still apply to us under the New Covenant in their spirit—the stretching out of principles to their spiritual intent. It is these principles that Paul is drawing on for this command. We are to present our lives as a sacrifice to God.

Remember, our salvation rests on the human sacrifice of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. First, He gave up His glory to become a man. Second, He sacrificed His life; for 33 ½ years, He laid it down as an offering to God, and as an example to us of perfect obedience. Finally, He gave up His human life as a sacrifice on the stake.

Sacrifice is a New Testament doctrine! It is on such a higher plane that there is no comparison with the sacrificing done in the Old Testament. Now we have to be sacrificed and much in the same way, in principle, that Christ was. Many individual verses or paragraphs in the Bible explain that such things as prayer, thanksgiving, faith, and repentance are Christian sacrifices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 19)


 

1 Corinthians 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just as a little leaven in bread quickly spreads completely through the dough, one "little" sin affects our whole being. As James points out, if we break one commandment, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. One sin begets another unless the chain is broken through repentance.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

1 Corinthians 15:25-28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's reign will and must continue until every enemy has been conquered, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by His Father. But in that quotation, "All things are put under Him," it is self-evident that God, who reduced everything to subjection, is not included. When Christ has finally won the battle against all His enemies, then shall the Son acknowledge Himself subject to God the Father, who gave the Son power over all things, that God may be utterly supreme, that He may be everything to everyone. (I Corinthians 15:25-28)

If this quotation does not square with your Bible, do not be alarmed. It is an amplification of these verses pieced together from the Phillips, King James, Taylor, Moffatt, and Norlie translations. The Father is drawing the entire creation into a state where everybody and everything acknowledge Him as God. When this occurs, division, confusion, and warfare will not exist because all, everything, is at one with our Creator.

Our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repentance from dead works and receiving of God's Holy Spirit are the first major steps for each of us in seeking to become one with the Father. The next major step is the return of Jesus Christ, when we will inherit the Kingdom of God after the resurrection from the dead. The "all in all" of verse 28 is the very end point of the gospel.

Though I Corinthians 15:28 may appear to be something that happens in the distant future, the process has already begun in us. Understanding this as a reality is vital to our spiritual well-being. If we do not consider it to be real, we may be lured into neglecting our summons to this glorious destiny by letting ourselves follow distractions or grow irresponsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Victory" is from the same Greek root as the word translated "overcomes" so many times in Revelation 2 and 3. Overcoming is being victorious over the pull of human nature against God in the self, Satan, and this world that tries to keep us from entering God's Kingdom.

Paul also exhorts us to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." His work is creating. Then, by using the words "your labor," the apostle draws our attention to our responsibilities. Our labor is whatever energies and sacrifices it takes to yield to the Lord so He can do His work. Scripture refers to God several times as the Potter, and we are the clay He is shaping. The difference between us and earthy clay is that the clay God is working is alive—having a mind and will of its own, it can choose to resist or yield.

Following initial repentance, finding the motivation to use our faith to yield to Him in labor, not just agreeing mentally, is perhaps most important of all. Real living faith motivates conduct in agreement with God's purpose. Clearly, God's purpose is that we grow or change to become as much like Him in this life as time allows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

2 Corinthians 5:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses state a reality we all face: We are accountable to the Creator for our conduct. We know that standing between us and God is an internally generated pride that, if allowed, will greatly hinder our desire to please Him by submitting.

We must understand that God's calling of us, His granting of repentance to us, and His providing us with His Spirit have given us a valuable power, an "edge." He has not given us an impossible challenge. Receiving the Holy Spirit has given us the wherewithal, the powers, to meet our responsibility to submit voluntarily to Him. What is the solution? In short, it is to exercise humility before the Holy One of Israel. Humility can defuse pride's power.

There is a major difference between pride and humility. Because of exposure to Satan and the world, pride is within us almost from birth. Humility, though, is not part of us from birth. Spiritual humility is most definitely a developed characteristic, derived because of contact with God and our choosing to be so before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride


 

2 Corinthians 5:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If a person truly believes, he will repent, and the consequence is reconciliation with God. Our relationship to Him changes; it is entirely new. Our point of view, our world view, changes. We no longer look at life in the same way. Now we view everything from the perspective of God, His Word, and His Kingdom. We no longer look upon people as we did before.

Before our reconciliation we had a superficial view of Christ. Now we view Him as the Eternal Creator, Lord, Savior, and High Priest who lives in us by His Spirit and with whom we are now in fellowship. This has a tremendous impact on how we conduct our lives.

We understand that God is creating a new race beginning with Christ, the second Adam. A man in Christ is a new creation, not merely improved or reformed, but remade. Reconciliation is not just politely ignoring hostilities. It is the total removal of hostilities so there can be a relationship, a fellowship, between God and man that will produce sanctification leading to holiness and complete and total at-one-ment with the great God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

2 Corinthians 6:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In other words, "Do not receive the grace of God to no purpose." That is what vanity is. It has no purpose, no contact with reality. God is reality, and the Kingdom of God is reality. The law of God is reality because it is truth, and truth, by definition, is reality.

Again, Paul's appeal is, "Do something!" What are we to do? He replies, "Cooperate with God! Truly work with Him to accomplish His will in your life." Jesus says, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" He is the One who says in Luke 16:29-31 that, if we want to know how to avoid the Lake of Fire, look to Moses and the prophets. This is why Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20, "Be reconciled to God through the repenting of sin. Quit breaking His law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

2 Corinthians 7:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Through repentance we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sin, and the grace and acceptance of God as joint-heirs with Christ. With it comes faith and hope that we will one day rule with Christ for eternity. We not only benefit, but we can also help others turn from their way. Repentance is arduous, but the rewards are beyond human experience and comprehension! Perhaps it is as formidable as the hellfire-and-brimstone preachers contend, but through Jesus Christ, it is positive and quite possible. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

2 Corinthians 13:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Do you not know yourselves? - We have all learned many things through trial and suffering over the years, but it has not been all pain and agony. At various times, we have abounded with joy, contentment, peace, and growth as well, and we should thank God who has engineered and authored these blessings. However, beyond honestly identifying how far we have come, we also need to recognize and acknowledge the stony parts that are still in us, repenting before God with our whole hearts.

As Paul says in I Corinthians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." To paraphrase, do we not realize the magnitude of our relationship with God and the obligation this puts us under to live every second as an example of God's way of life? God's people are not ordinary in any sense!

Solomon writes in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The heart, the mind, is the storehouse of our character. We must spend time in meditation and in prayer asking for insight from God to reveal to us exactly who we are - inside - where normally only God can see. We must implore Him for understanding about who we really are right now in His eyes. We need this information to understand properly our relationship with Him.

This is a solemn and sobering process, but it should not be something we fear. Still, we must come to God in this process with humility and a heart ready to repent immediately of flaws that He shows us. This process is not superficial by any means, but one designed to reach to the very heart of our being.

Remember, God may be a consuming fire to His enemies (Hebrews 12:29), but to His own children, He is a boundless provider and loving Father (Ephesians 3:14-21). He is quick to forgive if we freely confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9).

Staff
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?


 

Galatians 2:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 2:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul, Peter, and the other Jews, because of their familiarity with Scripture (the Old Testament), would have known that a man could not be justified in God's eyes through the "works of the law"—by his own righteousness (Psalm 130:3; 143:2; Exodus 34:7; Job 4:17; 9:2-3,29; 15:14; 25:4; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

It is impossible for us, once we have sinned even once, to be in alignment with God of our own volition. Justification is an act of God by which He declares a person acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner's guilt. However, this is the beginning of the common misconception that faith and works are mutually exclusive. In that view, works are of no avail at all, and all one has to do is "believe." But that notion is refuted in Matthew 7:21-23 and James 2:19-20, among other places.

The common interpretation of this verse—that belief is all that is required—cannot be correct, for it is contradicted in James 2:21 and Romans 2:13. Given that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), all three of these verses must complement rather than contradict each other. It should be remembered that in Galatians 2:6, 9, Paul met with the leaders in Jerusalem—including James—and there was no disagreement between them! Verse 6 shows that they did not have anything to "add" to what Paul was preaching to the Gentiles, and by extension, there was nothing to be taken away, changed, etc. Verse 9 shows they agreed on their respective responsibilities, but there is no indication of any doctrinal disagreement between them. In this light, it can be concluded that the verse in question here will not only agree with, but will also complement what James wrote, as well as what Paul wrote in Romans 2:13 (or else Paul would have been double-minded, and thus "unstable in all his ways"; James 1:8).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

This section by James appears to contradict directly what Paul says in Galatians. If we go by the common interpretation, these verses are diametrically opposed to each other. Given that Scripture cannot be broken, however, these passages must complement one another. The interpretation of one or both of them is wrong when the conclusion is reached that one is justified by faith only.

The faith that is mentioned in either one of those verses is given without qualification as to when the faith is used—whether for justification or sanctification. The context of Galatians 2:16 seems to indicate it is talking about justification (being brought into alignment with God and His law after He has called us out of the world; John 6:44). However, in James 2:24 it is not clear whether he is referring to justification or sanctification, but it seems to be a little bit more weighted toward sanctification (the process one goes through after entering into the covenant with God).

James 2:20 shows plainly that faith without works is dead at any time during a Christian's calling and conversion—whether for justification or sanctification.

The picture begins to form that works indeed may play a part in a person's justification. To look at it another way: Does repentance play a part in God's forgiveness of our sins, and thus justification? Repentance is not merely feeling sorrow and crying out to God, as II Corinthians 7:1 shows (where we are commanded to cleanse ourselves). Repentance also includes a change of mind and heart, and at the very least, the beginning of turning to God in obedience. Repentance is not genuine if one is merely sorry; one has to begin to change his ways to show how deep the sorrow goes. All too often we are sorry that we are caught, or that we have to pay the consequences, rather than truly being sorry for sinning (falling short of the glory of God). True repentance will be a deep conviction that what we have done is wrong, and it will be deep enough to motivate us to change from our past behavior—and this change qualifies as "works." As it has been said, "God saves us from our sins, not in our sins." There is a difference, and this gives an indication that there may indeed be a measure of works involved in Galatians 2:16, small though it may be.

Galatians 2:16 does not say in the Greek exactly what it says in the English, and it sheds light on our understanding of the relationship between faith and works when we understand it as it is written in the Greek. The phrase in question here is: "A man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." In the Greek it says, "A man is not justified by the works of the law: [he is not justified] except through faith in Jesus Christ."

This is a very significant difference. "Except through" points to the means by which justification is accomplished without nullifying or canceling out the importance of works. The verse is not saying that works are of no avail or are unimportant. Clearly, they are important in the example of repentance. It is saying that works without faith in the blood of Jesus Christ are of no avail. Works, coupled with faith in Jesus Christ, are just fine. But all the works in the world, if they are not coupled with faith in Jesus Christ are of absolutely no avail!

This makes Galatians 2:16 agree perfectly with James 2:20-24: "Faith without works is dead." Living faith and works go together, in terms of either justification or sanctification, if the works are combined with faith in Jesus Christ. Faith and works are not contradictory, but complementary, IF Christ is part of the mix. Works of the law do not justify a man, except through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying that any amount of lawkeeping—it does not matter if it is Gnostic law, Judaic law, the statutes or judgments of God, the Ten Commandments—if it is not connected to faith in Jesus Christ, accomplishes nothing in terms of justification. Even keeping the Ten Commandments must be coupled with faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying the law is done away; he is tying the two of them together, and it is a positive combination—if the faith in Jesus Christ is the main ingredient.

Galatians 2:16 makes even more sense when it is compared to Romans 2:13: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." The keeping of God's law alone will not justify them, but God expects that someone who has faith in Christ will keep His law, and therefore it is good to do that, because works are evidence in what one has faith. Without works, God would never be sure of what we really believe.

Staff


 

Galatians 2:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To paraphrase, Paul says, "If I repent and am mercifully forgiven by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, thus killing or destroying the old man who did all of those sins, and then I go back to that way of life again, I am the one that is at fault—not Christ. I make myself a transgressor. It is not Christ or His way of life that makes me this way or promotes sin in me. Not at all!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Those who say that Paul's words mean that one does not have to obey God in order to receive His Spirit simply do not understand what he was talking about. They also do not understand the circumstances that the apostle was addressing. The main problem in the churches in Galatia was that people were being taught that they could be justified—have their sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—by lawkeeping. The people's minds were being turned away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was reminding them that the only way anyone can receive forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

To drive his point home, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive God's Holy Spirit by lawkeeping while ignoring faith in the sacrifice of Christ. He points out that, without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, no one can be justified, no one can be forgiven of sins, and no one can be given the gift of God's Holy Spirit.

This does not negate the fact that there are still basically two requirements for receiving God's Spirit, namely, repentance and faith in Christ. Both of these requirements must be met before one can receive the Spirit. Repentance involves turning from sin and turning toward obedience to God's commandments.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Galatians 3:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a reiteration of the topic of Galatians 3:2-3, but in it Paul reiterates that it is God who supplies us with His Holy Spirit. Throughout his letter, Paul is continually pointing back to God and the overwhelming role that He fulfills in our lives.

The Greek word translated "by" is ek, which means "a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause)." A more common expression is "by means of." The emphasis is on the mechanism by which they received the Spirit. Even though works are involved in the receipt of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32), largely because a prerequisite of receiving the Holy Spirit is repentance—and true repentance is turning from sinful ways—those works are not the means by which we receive the Spirit. It is a gift from God. See the notes at Galatians 3:2.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word scripture refers to the Old Testament. Paul writes in a way where the Scripture is personified ("foreseeing"), but the intent is clear that the Scripture is being spoken of in terms of the Author. The One who inspired the Old Testament (Scripture) foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles through faith. This means that the doctrine of justification by faith is contained in the Old Testament (Psalm 130:3, 143:2; Exodus 34:7; Job 4:17, 9:2-3,29, 15:14, 25:4; Ecclesiastes 7:20), and is not something contained just in the New—if not directly, then at least indirectly by showing that we cannot justify ourselves in God's eyes. (God foretells of this Gentile justification in Isaiah 49:6, 22-23, 60.)

The phrase "would justify" is in the present indicative sense, which means that it is now, and at all times, God's one way of justification. Here it would better be translated as "justifies." God justifies through faith—He always has, and as long as the present order of things continues, He always will. There was never a time when a person could have been justified by their works or actions.

Faith in Christ is the means by which God would justify the heathens ("the nations"—the Gentiles), but that justification does not mean they were allowed to remain Gentiles (heathens) in a spiritual sense. Being justified does not mean we are told we have not done anything wrong. Being justified means we are brought into legal alignment with God and His law, so the sin-induced gulf between God and man can be overcome and the relationship can begin. The physical Gentiles are/were given the opportunity to repent (Acts 11:18), which coincides with justification, but even repentance means that a change in behavior (works) must be made. God saves us from our sins, not in our sins.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Even though the law can guide a person in the right way to live, and even though it describes the character of God, it also condemns and brings one guilty before God through an awareness of sin. However, it does not possess the power to forgive, to justify, or to give life.

It takes a living Personality—the Giver and the Enforcer of the law—to forgive, to justify, and to give life. The law can do nothing to reverse the condemnation—the curse—once it is incurred through sin, but Christ took the curse upon Himself so that we do not have to bear our own punishment. The Father, in His mercy, permits His death to apply for us. He forgives and justifies us, if we accept Christ's death on our behalf with true repentance and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:27-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In making the New Covenant—once we have proceeded through the process of repentance and baptism and have received God's Spirit, which baptizes us into Christ—we are then Abraham's children. We become Abraham's descendants regardless of race or national origin. We become, therefore, part of the one Family into which God is drawing all of mankind, and we become heirs of the promises made to Abraham as part of the Abrahamic Covenant. All the Old Covenant did was bridge the gap from the time the Israelites were released from their bondage until the promised Seed came.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)


 

Galatians 6:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We should have a meek attitude to all others regardless of our relationship with them. Even when someone is antagonistic, meek correction and teaching will assist God in leading them to repentance. For prautes, the NKJV uses "gentleness" in Galatians and "humility" in II Timothy and Titus. Both of these are qualities of meekness. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It is evenness of mind—neither elated nor cast down—because a truly meek person is not occupied with self at all.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Ephesians 2:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith's importance to salvation is accentuated by this verse. Faith plays a role in the entire process until we enter the Kingdom of God. It is the sum of what God is doing in our lives: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'" (John 6:29). In the fourth and fifth chapters of Romans, Paul mentions faith a dozen times, almost all concerning justification, being made righteous or having access to grace, and thus, having the hope of the glory of God.

The faith that saves has its beginning when God, on His own initiative, calls us (John 6:44) and leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He does this by His Spirit guiding us into all truth (John 16:7-14). Stirring up our minds to knowledge, His Spirit enables us to perceive from a perspective we never before seriously considered. This, combined with the confrontation that occurs with the carnal mind when we are forced to choose what to do with this precious truth, gives birth to a living faith, a faith that works, a faith that walks in godliness.

This would never occur if God did not first do His part. We would never find the true God on our own or understand His gospel of the Kingdom of God. We would never be able to choose the real Jesus, our Savior and Elder Brother, from the mass of false christs created in the minds of men. Not knowing what to repent of or toward, we would never repent.

As miraculous and powerful as God's liberation of Israel from bondage was, even more so and of greater importance is the breaking of our bondage to Satan, this world, and human nature. This is why Ephesians 2:8 says the faith that saves is "the gift of God." Israel's release from Egypt was God's gift too. Regardless of how much they cried out to Him, the Israelites would never have left Egypt without Him. If God had not been merciful and faithful, if He had not been trustworthy, they would never have been freed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

Ephesians 2:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice first how this chapter begins: He has made us alive (Ephesians 2:1). Paul makes sure that we understand that it is God who gives what we spiritually possess. As for verse 8, it does not matter whether we believe that the pronoun "it" refers to grace or faith; both are gifts of God.

Grace is God's kindness to us, shown or demonstrated by His revealing Himself to us. It might help to think of this in reference to God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush before He sent him to Egypt. If God did not freely purpose on the strength of His own sovereign will to reveal Himself, neither Moses nor we would ever find Him. If a person cannot find God on his own, how could he possibly have faith in Him? Satan has deceived us so well that men have only the foggiest idea of what to look for.

Faith—with God as its object—begins and continues as part of His gift of kindness. The gift includes His calling, the granting of repentance, the sacrifice of Christ for our forgiveness, and His giving of His Spirit. It is a complete package of many individual gifts. The gospel is the medium that provides knowledge of the objects of the faith He gives, that is, what we believe and trust in. Paul, perceiving these gifts as a package, uses "grace" as its label. In verses 9-10, he advances to the logical "next step" in God's purpose.

Our works in no way jump-start the process of justification, sanctification, and glorification. All our works, beginning with repentance and continuing through our period of sanctification, depend directly on the freely given kindness and faith God provides. Our God-ordained good works are the result of our response to the gift of faith that God gives. Works, then, are the external evidence of the unseen, internal faith that motivates them. A person could not do them unless God had given the gift of faith beforehand. Good works follow, they do not precede.

II Corinthians 5:17-18 confirms this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This corroborates that it is God working in the person. His work is termed a "new creation." Since nothing new creates itself, we are the workmanship of another. We are God's workmanship. In sum, because of what God does, we cooperate and produce works that He ordains.

The apostle Paul adds to our understanding in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He is not saying that we should work in order to obtain salvation. These verses indicate the continuing use of something one already possesses. They suggest carrying something to its logical conclusion, which is for us to live lives worthy of the gospel, doing the works God ordained, as in Ephesians 2:10.

In Romans 9:9-19, Paul, using Jacob and Esau's pre-birth circumstances as a foundation, provides a clear illustration to show that from beginning to end, the whole salvation process depends upon God's involvement. Jacob, representing those called into the church, received God's love in the form of gifts designed to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. To Esau, representing the uncalled, God has simply withheld His love for the time being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:11-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The blood of Jesus Christ secures forgiveness and redemption for us when we believe and bring forth fruit fitting repentance because His sacrifice is of sufficient value to cover the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2 says, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

Ephesians 2:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because God accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (and our faith in that sacrifice and our repentance), His anger against us is dissipated. He thus allows us to have access to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 5:13-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 13 encourages us to understand that God is purposely exposing our sins to us for our eternal good so that we might share life in His Kingdom with Him. Therefore, He urges us in verses 14-17 to wake up and take advantage of this, for if we continue in sin, we are as good as dead. But because it is His desire to save, He exposes our sins to us so that we can repent.

Doing our part by overcoming is necessary if we want to experience the fullness of our redemption from sin. We must take advantage of the great gift of His Spirit, using every opportunity that comes our way to confront our weaknesses and drive on to perfection. He implores us not to let what has made us special to Him slip from our grasps.

Thus, in verse 17 especially, He urges us to follow wisdom through clearly understanding His will for us. He wants us in His Kingdom, experiencing life as He lives it, but a measure of responsibility for responding in submission falls directly on our shoulders. We know what we must do—we must take the time and make the effort to take advantage of our uniqueness before Him. Time is running out, so let us do it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time


 

Ephesians 5:25-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why did He give Himself? So that we can be cleaned up! He had to die. We have to recognize this death, so there can be the forgiveness of sin, that we might repent, and that we might be a fit receptacle of His Spirit. God will not put His Holy Spirit into a "dirty" receptacle. The underlying meaning of holy is "clean." It also suggests "different."

God's Holy Spirit is not defiled and dirty - unlike the spirit we have by nature, the spirit of this world, human nature. God's Spirit is different! The spirit of human nature is murderous, hateful, and iniquitous in every way. God's Spirit is holy, righteous, good, pure, kind, gentle, merciful, submissive, and childlike. Every good quality we can think of is resident within that Spirit. Will God defile it by putting it into a vessel that is not fit for it? No. So we have to be led to repentance - there has to be a change.

What does baptism symbolize? Death and purification. After baptism, God considers us clean enough to put His Spirit in us. If there had not been the sacrificial death of the Creator God, and on His death a will or testament left, none of this could ever have occurred. Unless He died, there would be no recipient for the blessings! There could be no New Covenant, because the Spirit could not be given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

Hebrews 6:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Eternal judgment is one of the basic doctrines of the church of God, equal in importance to repentance, faith, baptism, etc. Webster's New World Dictionary defines judgment as "a legal decision, order or sentence given by a judge." In eternal judgment, God decides a person's reward or punishment for all eternity.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Hebrews 6:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These doctrines or principles are very important. God will grant us repentance and forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ. What good news! But it is not the good news. That is the principle: Being granted repentance and having faith in and through Jesus Christ are good news, but the result of those things is the real good news. It is the culmination of the process—"let us go on to perfection"—that is the good news.

What if the gospel concentrates on the Messenger rather than the message He brought? If it focuses on the greatness of the Messenger, all of the good news about Him, and His importance to the process, His significance actually begins to diminish. If one concentrates on the Messenger, he will believe that salvation comes merely because he believes in the Messenger (see Matthew 7:21). Further development of that human being stops because he has made the wrong choice. That is the problem with concentrating on the Messenger, as important as He is.

The gospel does not specifically concentrate on Christ, yet we do not want to denigrate the major role He plays either. The process pivots around Him, though its ultimate purpose will end when He delivers the Kingdom to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24). The Messenger became the High Priest, and we are saved through His life. Christianity has to go beyond the fact that He was the Messenger. Now He is the High Priest in heaven. And though He is High Priest, we still have choices to make in relation to the Kingdom of God.

That is why Hebrews 6:1 says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection." As we go through the process that the Messenger went through and begin to experience what He accomplished, He is magnified in our eyes, because we try to do what He did and realize how awesome and difficult what He did was. While we try to imitate Him, the process of creation is going on. If we stop trying to imitate Him, He becomes diminished. That is why we have to go on to perfection, to completion, because the process is not complete with just believing in Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 6:4-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's sacrifice applies only once for each person, and if we reject God's grace, it cannot be applied again. This is why willing apostasy is so terrible and why the apostles fought so strongly against heresy in the first century. The eternal lives of thousands of God's people were at stake!

In a more passive way, sin can lead to eternal death by continued neglect. The sinner may know he should repent of sin, but because of lethargy he never bothers to overcome it. He is apathetic; he just does not care. The Laodicean attitude (Revelation 3:15-19) comes dangerously close to this type of sin, and if not repented of, it can lead to the unpardonable sin.

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

Hebrews 10:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first thing Paul lays out in this transition is a three-step trigger to prime the Hebrew Christians' latent memories so they will be armed with foundational incentives to rouse themselves spiritually and start moving forward. In verses 22-24, he makes three exhortations.

First, "let us draw near." In other words, get moving! He says, "Take advantage of this privilege of coming before God, and believe without doubting, knowing your sins are forgiven and remembering that God is faithful and merciful to forgive." Recall that in the performance of their duties, the priests had to wash their hands and feet before entering the holy place. This is why Paul mentions water. He is alluding to the Hebrews' need to become clean. He urges them to repent of their lackadaisical attitudes and to meet with their Maker in prayer.

Second, he commands them to "hold fast your profession." Paul uses a similar phrase five times before this. Apparently, lackadaisical drifting was a particularly common problem for them. He wants them to show by their conduct that they believe in what God has promised in the resurrection from the dead. In short, he advises, "Remember your conviction in the awesome hope of our calling." These people were allowing the world to get them down; they were succumbing to a "what's the use" resignation. They were not busy confirming their souls. Paul exhorts them to continue, to persevere in the grace God had already shown them, not wanting them to waste it by failing to look ahead and be persistent. He presses them to yield to God and to allow themselves to be reassured that He is faithful to His promises.

Pay special attention to the third exhortation in verse 24. The word "consider" is very emphatic. He urges them to think upon and to strive for unity by giving conscientious care to each other. He wants the Hebrews to give special attention to their brethren's circumstances, trials, temptations, weaknesses, and needs. They need to "fire each other up" to promote love for God and for each other and to carry out our common responsibilities. Christians do this by setting a good example, by occasional suitable exhortations, by acts of kindness, and by expressions of appreciation.

Notice that as this exhortation begins, Paul calls upon the "big three" Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love. These would form the foundation of what the Hebrews must do if they were to reverse their slide toward the Lake of Fire. These virtues must be implemented because they affect the quality of a person's relationship with God. Because a Christian has God's Spirit, these virtues are already part of him. However, each individual must himself choose to use them to turn his life around; no one can do this for another. Of course, it is understood that God is always there to help a person do this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

2 Peter 1:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For those who believe in the doctrine of eternal security, II Peter 1:10-11 is a particularly difficult passage to dispute because it exposes the lie in this infernal teaching. It does this by stating a simple command that God asks us to carry out.

The inverse is also true; if we fail to do what Peter advises, then our calling and election are not sure. Beyond that, if we stumble, an entrance will not be supplied to us into the Kingdom of God.

God has done His part. He called or elected us out of all the billions on this planet. He forgave us, granted us repentance, and gave us His Holy Spirit. He opened up the truth to us and revealed Himself and His way of life to us. He made the New Covenant with us, supplying us with spiritual gifts, love, and faith. There is no end to what He has done for us.

Nevertheless, if we do not reciprocate, the relationship He has begun will fall apart. Our calling and election are not certain without us doing our part. We can fall away and not make it into the Kingdom of God.

Why did Peter write this to the whole church (verse 1)? He wrote it because the church at the time was experiencing various apostasies (II Peter 2:3). False teachers were bringing into the church destructive doctrines to turn the people away.

Why would Satan put false teachers in the church if there was no chance for the people to fall away? If church members have eternal security, why waste his time on them? However, Satan himself knows that Christians do not have eternal security, and he tries his best to turn us into apostates. We can fall away!

Peter was writing in this atmosphere. The people in the first-century church were living in a time of false teachings, false teachers, and apostasy, and he needed to warn them. "For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth" (II Peter 1:12).

This, too, begs the question: Why did Peter command them to make their calling and election sure? If they had the truth, and he admitted that they were established in it, why did they have to make it "sure"? In making their calling and election sure, they would be doing the one thing that would keep them on the right path to the Kingdom. Christians keep themselves from falling into deception, error, and sin - keep themselves from apostatizing and losing their salvation - by validating their conversion.

When a thing is validated, it is objectively determined to be genuine, true, real, authentic, or legitimate. How do Christians validate their calling and election? The answer is simple. Jesus describes it in Matthew 7:16-20: We validate our calling and election by producing fruit. Jesus expounds on this in His Passover message in John 15:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. . . . By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (verses 1-2, 4-6, 8)

This blows the eternal security doctrine to smithereens. Our Savior, Jesus Christ - our Judge - says that if we do not bear fruit, God will take us away and throw us into the fire! If we bear fruit, however, we will glorify the Father and truly be disciples of Christ, that is, true Christians!

We validate our calling by growing in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18). If we are showing love to the brethren, if we are serving as opportunity permits, if we are deepening our relationship with God, we can be certain that our calling and election are still firmly in force.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

1 John 3:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sometime in the past, one may have heard that "cannot sin" applies to Christians when resurrected as spirit beings. This is probably not correct because the whole context of the passage involves the here and now—today, during our physical lives. John is describing a situation in which we have opportunities to sin or not.

"Cannot sin" does not mean that it is impossible for us to sin, but rather, it is an act that we will not permit ourselves to do. Many of us have likely said to a child, "You can't do that!" Yes, they could do it, but we have determined that it is totally unadvisable. This is the gist of John's meaning: A person who is born of God is unable to sin habitually.

Why? Because of the divine nature being within him! This does not mean that he will not slip or that he will not even sin willingly and willfully from time to time, knowing full well what he is getting into. There is still weakness in human flesh. However, the converted person will repent and fight the weakness tooth and toenail. He will not live in sin! God will not abide in sin, and if His Spirit is within us, and we choose to continue in sin, then He will withdraw His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

1 John 3:16-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 16, John teaches that we can know love by observing the way Jesus lived His life. He sacrificed His life for us by laying it down each day, as well as in death, setting us an example to follow in our relations with the brethren. In verse 17, he provides a practical illustration of a way we can lay down our life in love. Then, in verse 18, he encourages us not merely to agree with truth but to take action to meet a brother's need.

Verse 19 begins to show the effect of devoted sacrifice to this way of life. The persuasive power of knowing we are doing the right things inspires assurance, confidence, and satisfaction; we feel a positive sense that we are right with God. He then explains that, when these are not produced—but instead we feel guilt and condemnation because we know we are not doing well, and our concern for not being perfect overwhelms us—we need to go to God for forgiveness because He will forgive.

Verse 21 is a subtle encouragement to repent, to turn from our self-centeredness so we can be at peace with God and within ourselves. Verse 22 discloses the positive effect of laying down our lives in sacrifice for our brethren by devotedly keeping the commandments: answered prayers. Living by faith and displaying it through a life of sacrificial love is the theme of verse 23, and finally, in verse 24, he reveals another positive effect: to know absolutely that He lives in us and we in Him. Our lives revolve around faith in this knowledge.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering


 

1 John 3:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is vitally important to us because we of all people are subject to intense feelings of self-condemnation and guilt from knowing that we are not living up to God's standard. We truly care about what God thinks of us because we know more than most about Him.

Our faith is not to be blind and unthinking but based on truth. Our application of faith in light of this verse necessitates a fascinating balance between two extremes that arise from our more precise knowledge of God's way. Both extremes are wrong. The first extreme, already noted, is that we live life in constant guilt and fear that God's hammer will fall and smash us to smithereens at any moment due to our imperfections.

The second is a laissez-faire, God-is-very-merciful-and-tolerant, He-understands-my-weaknesses attitude. In this extreme, sins are accepted as part of the normal course of life, and no determined effort is made to overcome them. Some have given in to a particular sin, exclaiming, "God understands my needs." God also understands rebellion.

But whatever happened to Jesus' strong admonition, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out," or "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Matthew 5:29-30)? Certainly, He does not mean this literally, but it illustrates the serious determination, vigor, and strength we are to employ in overcoming sin. Those who minimize sin come close to trampling the Son of God underfoot and putting His sacrifice to an open shame (see Hebrews 6:6; 10:29).

How good is the sacrifice of such a person's life? He is guilty of practicing sin. John writes, "Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (I John 3:9). Later, in Revelation 22:15, he adds, "But outside [the New Jerusalem] are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." Such people will not be in God's Kingdom.

Their consciences have adjusted in a similar way to the situation in Malachi 1. Sin, a defiled life, is acceptable, and their attitude seems to be that God will just have to be satisfied with children who will not strive to overcome. This is dangerous business indeed because God says only those who overcome will inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). Is God satisfied with such a situation? Does He not desire a better offering from His children for their welfare and His glory? If He is not content, the fellowship is either already broken or is breaking down.

Our concern, however, is for those who are striving to overcome but still failing from time to time—those who know they are not living up to the standard and struggle with a guilty conscience and feel their fellowship with God is cut off because of occasional sin. The majority of us probably fall into this category.

When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God's grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.

The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God's Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God's merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God's willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, "God will just have to take me as I am" disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.

This is why John says, "God is greater than our heart." He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life's experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.

We will never enter into God's acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ's life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering


 

1 John 5:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A sin which does not lead to death" is one that is genuinely repented of and for which forgiveness is available because the attitude of the sinner is meek and truly sorrowful. A person may have this attitude, yet still sin on occasion out of weakness, ignorance, bad judgment, or even inadvertently. Both greater and lesser sins can fall under this category. Earlier in the book, the same apostle writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)

Our genuine confession admits to God that we are guilty of breaking His law and seek to be cleared of it by Christ's sacrifice. This true repentance leads to a fierce desire not to sin and to building righteous character. God thus lifts the penalty of the second death, and once again, we, by His grace, are back on the road to salvation.

The sin that John calls a "sin leading to death" is what others know as "the unpardonable sin." Again, both greater and lesser sins can lead to the attitude that causes someone to commit an unforgivable sin. Such a sin is deeply reinforced by the attitude of the sinner—an attitude that denies Jesus Christ as Savior, that flagrantly hates his brother, and refuses to obey God's laws and statutes. Rebellion and defiance set this sin apart from others!

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

Revelation 2:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With Ephesus, we are looking at a people who had not so much drifted from the doctrines but had changed in the way that they respected and applied them. The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew people in the first century who were drifting. The Ephesus letter applies directly to them.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip away. (Hebrews 2:1)

The letter to Ephesus shows that they had let them slip or were in the process of doing so.

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. (Hebrews 2:2-3)

The Ephesians had become neglectful losing their devotion to this way of life. This is a very stern warning: "I will remove your candlestick." He advises them, "Repent. Go back."

One cannot go back to something that he did not previously have. This is a key to our separation from God. It will be a major key in re-unifying us-going back to what we had before: repenting, turning, going back. We must never forget that we are involved in a relationship with a real live Being, and He is not just any being but the One that we are to marry.

Would we want to marry someone who could take us or leave us? That is what happened to these people: They had lost their devotion to the relationship. They still had the doctrines, but their devotion was gone. They did not cherish Him anymore. They did not cherish the relationship, even though they had not walked away from the doctrines. So He says, "Turn. Go back."

It is good to recognize a hopeful sign-that it does not say that they had "lost" their first love but that they had "left" it. The power to love was still residing in them, but they would have to stir themselves up and use it. Love is what one does out of consideration for making the relationship better than it had ever been before. They needed to stir up the Spirit within them and return to the same zeal and devotion that they had shown at the beginning of their conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:1-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider that this is Christ's message to His church just before the end, and this is what is most important for His people as we approach the end. Doctrine is mentioned seven times. Is that interesting in light of the times in which we live? We are seeing a major part of the church going haywire on doctrine! Is there something in the letter to Thyatira that mentions things that are happening in that group?

The letters contain at least eleven warnings to these seven churches but also at least twelve promises. Christ mentions faith, patience, conduct, and doctrine. But the two greatest, related concerns for His church at the end are works (Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8, 15) and overcoming (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21).

Today, an awful lot of people are interested in church government at this time. It is not even mentioned by Christ! There are people who are interested in rituals, sacraments, and ceremonies, of which would be things like baptism or the Passover. But nothing in the seven letters alludes to these things. Nor is there anything in them about preaching the gospel around the world. These things have their place, but what we see is Christ's concern with doctrine, conduct, warnings to repent, and promises of reward.

Now these things that are not mentioned are less important than faith, repentance, and holiness, all of which directly impact on doctrine, conduct, and receiving the promises. All of these are bracketed between His statements about works and overcoming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 2:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God mercifully provides time and opportunity for repentance from idolatry and spiritual fornication with this world (II Peter 3:9). If He does not receive a proper response, He promises great tribulation and martyrdom—not necessarily as punishment, but as an inducement to repent.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 3:14-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Laodicea is spiritually blind and filled with self-righteousness, things that are revealed primarily in their attitudes and actions. They say they "have need of nothing." The relationship, for all intent and purposes, seems to be forgotten. If any person has no need of God or Christ or of anything, it is because they really think highly of themselves.

They are not saying this verbally; Christ is reading their actions. Notice that He does not even tell them to "hold fast." Maybe there is nothing left to hold fast to. He simply exhorts them to repent because they have so little remaining of what they received and heard in the past. There is apparently virtually nothing to hold on to?almost nothing to be faithful to.

The name Laodicea means "people ruling." If we take this name to be indicative of their condition, then the name clearly indicates that God is no longer running their lives. They are simply doing their own thing while still professing to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:15-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obviously, these people are not meeting the conditions of their relationship with God even though they are His children. Their lackadaisical, wishy-washy, self-righteous attitudes and self-absorbed, self-satisfied lives are totally unacceptable to Him. He casts them from His presence and commands them to change their ways. There is no covering for the conduct of their lives here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Revelation 3:15-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are, to a great measure, victims of an age that is certainly not apathetic to seeking its own pleasure but is apathetic about having a true relationship with God. Would anybody in all honesty not care to eat or to have fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yet, verse 20 says He is standing at the door and knocking, and He will come in and dine with them if they just open the door.

Many would like to eat and fellowship with Christ just to say that they had that novel experience. But the irony here is that God is seeking His people, and they are too uncaring to even rouse themselves to answer the door! The message to this church shows that the problem is that they are so far from Him they are not even aware of their spiritual need and thus have no desire to be near Him. No desire, no prayer. No prayer, no relationship. No relationship, no awareness of spiritual need. It goes in a vicious cycle.

God is hoping that He can stir us up enough to repent and to break out of the cycle. He says, "Repent. Be zealous." Zeal indicates heat, passion, and feeling. He is hoping to break us out of this circle by rekindling an awareness of our spiritual need.

An awareness of need resides in us because we are close enough to Him to see how holy, gracious, kind, merciful, and good He is and desire to be like Him. In other words, we admire Him so much and respect His personality and character so much that we want to be near Him—right across the table from Him, as it were. We do not want to be near Him just to have a novel experience but to exalt Him and honor Him by being like Him. Is not imitation the most sincere form of praise?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Revelation 3:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is willing to go to great lengths to get our attention and get us to turn so that we will buy gold refined in the fire, get proper white garments, and anoint our eyes with eye salve. He is trying to get us to repent, which is what chastening is all about.

The Laodicean has the same problem. He is blind to God at work in his life and in the lives of others. Why? Because he is busy doing something else. The Laodicean is not lazy; he is instead distracted with busyness, with this world, with getting ahead in life, with everything else rather than what he should be involved in—the things of God.

God wants him to be zealous, but not at making money, not at building his house, not at flitting off to various vacations, not at filling his social calendar. No, God wants him to be zealous for Him!

However, a Laodicean pretends to be righteous. Like Balaam, he has built a façade. Externally, he looks like a good guy, and righteous too, but all the while, inside he is something else: He is totally hypocritical. This is one of the Laodicean's problems. He is so focused on other things—usually his own well-being—that he cannot see God. Since he has everything all figured out, and all his needs and many of his desires are met, he in his heart of hearts believes that he really does not need God!

Christ's advice to the Laodicean is to get eye salve so he can see. It is not so that he can see other people or other things, but so he can specifically see God! He also wants him to produce righteousness, so he can put on that white clothing representing pure character—so he can "purchase" the spiritual riches that actually mean something, the heavenly treasure Jesus speaks about in Matthew 6:20.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Revelation 3:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse can be taken in two different ways. It could apply to the door of one's heart, his mind. Christ is calling, "Let Me into your life!" On the other hand, it can also mean that He is saying, "I am just about ready to return! And we can fellowship together if you would just repent!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 6:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 6:17 should read, "For the day, the great [day] of Their wrath, has come, and who is able to stand?" This is a plain statement of truth followed by a rhetorical question (see Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2). The sixth seal announces in unmistakable fashion that "the great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly" (Zephaniah 1:14). The prophet Joel describes it:

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all of the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. . . . The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:1-2, 10-11)

This is the question: Who will survive it? Who will pass God's judgment? The answer seems to be, "No one." But there is hope, as Joel 2:12-14 instructs:

"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him . . .?

Jesus gives us His answer in Luke 21:36: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." We must be alert and prepared for what may come, and the most important part of our preparation is the strengthening of our relationships with the Father and the Son through prayer, study, meditation, and obedience to His instructions. This is the only means to escape God's wrath.

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD'S fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you! Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

If we wish to avoid the coming stern and destructive judgment of God on recalcitrant mankind, there is no time like the present to seek His face (Psalm 105:4).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


 

Revelation 16:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no injustice with God. His justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; He never clears the guilty without repentance; He never punishes with undue severity; He always rewards righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

He does not require absolutely perfect obedience, or nobody would make it. The blood of Jesus Christ is available to cover us (Revelation 1:5). However, He does not always act with justice because He sometimes acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, as injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace; it does no violence to righteousness.

Those who live by faith must seriously consider God's justice. It constantly reminds us that the wages of sin is death, that sin is disloyalty to God, and that God means what He says. It reminds us of the tremendously precious value of Christ's sacrifice. When we enter into the covenant with God, we are pledging our lives to serve Him in gladness and faithfulness so that He might create us in His image.

God's grace helps to prod us to live continuously by faith. We must know and appreciate His grace without abusing it. His justice is a reality, and so is sin's penalty, but His mercifully given grace overrides both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Find more Bible verses about Repentance:
Repentance {Nave's}
Repentance {Torrey's}
 




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